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President Cyril Ramaphosa has said government will talk to labour about their fears of retrenchments, following his announcement on the unbundling of Eskom.
He also added that all South Africans should pull together to save the national entity, including ordinary South Africans, who should pay for electricity like they would pay for cell phone airtime.
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In an interview following the 32nd African Union heads of state summit on Monday, Ramaphosa said electricity generation was a “problem [for] all of us”, not just a “Cyril Rampahosa problem” or a “Pravin Gordhan problem”.
“Labour are clearly worried about a number of issues. We are going to sit down with labour so that we can discuss these issues and find solutions,” he said in response to a question from the SABC’s Sophie Mokoena.
A just transition
“They are also concerned about the issue of jobs, because they say once you have these three entities, workers are going to be retrenched. And we are saying we want a just transition.”
Ramaphosa said the workers represented by the unions are “our people, they are South Africans”, and his government was concerned about them as working people too.
READ: Ramaphosa ‘shocked, angry’ over ‘broken’ Eskom
“So we are going to be able to sit down and say this is the challenge we face.”
He said they would then have to “come up with solutions”.
Ramaphosa compared the problem of Eskom to a person who went to the doctor with diabetes. “The doctor will tell you you have got to stop taking sugar, you must stop taking this and that. You have got to change your lifestyle and unless you do so, you are going to die. So therefore we are saying let us look how we save Eskom, so that Eskom continues to employ people, Eskom continues to play a key role in the economy of our country.”
‘Difficult, painful’ solutions
Ramaphosa warned that the solutions “may be difficult and painful”, but South Africans had to face up to it and pull together. “WE have to take this difficult path.”
He mentioned the example of revenue shortfalls. “Many of our people are not paying for electricity, and users must know if we want electricity, and if we want Eskom to survive, we have got to pay for the electricity that we use, just like you pay for the airtime that you use for the cellphone.” He added that government would continue to help indigent families who couldn’t afford it.
“Eskom is far too important not to be saved by all of us. All of us must participate.”