Social compact on Eskom to assist power utility’s recovery

Johannesburg – Deputy President David Mabuza has hailed this year’s National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC) Summit as particularly special as it will see the signing of the Framework Agreement for a Social Compact on supporting Eskom.

The Deputy President made the remarks when he delivered the keynote address at NEDLAC’s 25th Annual Summit on Tuesday.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s summit was held virtually with only key speakers and signatories of the social compact allowed at the venue.

“We are excited to be witnessing the signing of this social compact, as it signifies confidence in Eskom and its importance to the South African economy.

“This is in sync with the work of the Eskom Political Task Team that is chaired by the Deputy President to bring together key players within government towards the resolution of challenges facing Eskom,” he said.

Negotiation of this social compact began a year ago when the country was seized with the energy crisis – with the prospects of load shedding and high electricity prices.

The Deputy President said the social compact will be an important vehicle to hold Eskom to account to rectify the problems of the past, and ensure a sustainable supply of electricity going forward.

This year’s summit is held under theme “Social Compacting for Economic Recovery in the Time of COVID-19”.

“This is an important theme when government is galvanised to lead society to address the cumulative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“At this moment, not only has South Africa and the world been confronted with a once in a century disruptive event – the COVID-19 pandemic, but we have had to address it in a situation of economic distress,” said the Deputy President.

To contain the virus and flatten the curve of new infections, government implemented a raft of measures that included the implementation of nationwide lockdown that impacted on economic activities and jobs.

Mabuza said government is of the view that if it was not for organised business, labour and community in their own constituencies and working collectively at NEDLAC, the country would have been worse off in its response to the pandemic and nationwide lockdown.

With government faced with an ailing economy in a post COVID-19 environment, the Deputy President called on all stakeholders to join efforts in rebuilding the economy.

“As we have said before, the National Development Plan, like the economic reconstruction and recovery plan, is not the responsibility of government alone.

“Its effective implementation requires the participation of all stakeholders to decisively deal with the socio-economic challenges of poverty and inequality,” he said.

In addition to the need to rebuild the country’s economy, the Deputy President said the COVID-19 pandemic necessitated the urgency to respond to the changing nature of work.

“The ILO [International Labour Organisation] has been leading discussions on the Future of Work and have identified key drivers namely climate change, technological innovation, demographics shift and globalization.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has to a great extent fast tracked some of these drivers. Government thus recognises the urgency in which we should be responding to and harnessing the positive opportunities posed by the Future of Work while mitigating against the adverse impacts that are posed by automation and artificial intelligence, for example,” he said.

The Deputy President said the changing nature of work requires the social partners to deliberate on the necessary changes to the country’s skills strategy, labour legislation and social security dispensation so that the ideal of decent work can continue to be realised under these new conditions.

“For us in the Human Resource Development Council, we recognise that COVID-19 has made more urgent the need to develop skills and training that is innovation-led, entrepreneurial-focused, and technologically advanced,” he said.

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