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Mazzone: Eskom axing engineers by race ‘beyond belief’

Mazzone: Eskom axing engineers by race ‘beyond belief’

Mar 9, 2015

In a statement released on Sunday 8 March 2015, South Africa’s Shadow Minister of Public Enterprises Natasha Mazzone has slammed Eskom’s proposed retrenchment of experienced white engineers and reminded the utility giant that its job is to “keep the lights on”.

Here is the statement released by South Africa’s Democratic Alliance (DA):

I have today written to the Minster of Public Enterprises, Lynne Brown, requesting that she institute an immediate moratorium on the retrenchment of experienced engineers at Eskom.

According to media reports today, Eskom must reduce the number of white engineers by 1 081 and white artisans by 2 179 in professional and mid-management positions to comply with strict new government requirements that these two job categories become “completely reflective of the national and regional demographics” by 2020.

Eskom’s top priority must be to keep the lights on. Getting rid of experienced engineers is not in any way going to aid with this. The DA supports the redress of the legacy of the past but does not support repeating the same racially driven mistakes of the past. Redress will not be achieved through racial victimisation that will, inevitably, hurt the poor and mostly-black South Africans the most. With load shedding now a daily occurrence – with the disadvantaged hardest hit – the DA calls on Eskom to make use of its engineers’ skills to find a solution to the troubles facing Eskom instead of worsening the problem.

Forcing experienced engineers out of Eskom on the basis of their race is not only racial discrimination; it is a move that will further damage our prospects of growing the economy and creating jobs. The electricity crisis requires all hands on deck if we are to mitigate its devastating effects on the economy and job creation.

South Africa faces a severe skills shortage in the engineering sector. Minister of Science Technology, Naledi Pandor, recently stated that despite the high number of students enrolling in engineering each year, South Africa only produces approximately 1 500 engineering graduates yearly – of which only about half go on to practice engineering.

The Minister added that the shortage of engineering professionals means that we don’t have enough practitioners available for ongoing work. The government in its latest bid at populist rhetoric ignores this fact.

The DA rejects racial quotas in favour of programmes that actively promote black advancement by extending opportunity through education and skills training. Job-creating economic growth is the best way to counter the poverty and inequality that Apartheid created.

In the face of a major skills shortage, Eskom’s decision to axe qualified engineers – simply based on their race – is beyond belief.

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