While Eskom is embroiled in heated wage negotiations that could lead to blackouts, the Mail & Guardian has established that the troubled power producer spent R12,6-million on football tickets for the 2010 Fifa World Cup — including some of the priciest tickets available.
Ayanda Noah, Eskom’s managing director of distribution, told the M&G that Eskom bought 1 110 tickets during 2009 and 2010. Of these, about 700 were hospitality tickets, valued at about R17 000 each. The remaining 400 were for general seating.
The executive decision to purchase the tickets was taken in November 2008, only four months before the end of the financial year that saw Eskom hit its biggest loss of R9,7-billion.
Eskom’s dire financial situation led to the parastatal asking the World Bank this year for a R27-billion loan to maintain the country’s supply of electricity.
Noah said its football-tickets initiative would “assist in building public confidence in Eskom and the system”. The tickets were given to “customers and stakeholders that were specifically identified to enhance the networks to key event installations”.
Also benefiting were the board of directors and executive team, as well as “specific staff members for their contributions to the Eskom 2010 preparations”, Noah said.
Holders of hospitality tickets enjoy what Fifa describes as a “world-class” service, with “a main course before or after the match, a half-time snack, pre- and post-match entrées, hors d’oeuvres and dessert buffet, with an open bar with fine beverages”.
Dedicated hostesses, preferential parking and exclusive commemorative gifts are included in the largess bestowed on holders of hospitality tickets, which are the most expensive available for the first two rounds of the tournament.
“When we purchased the tickets in 2009 there were only hospitality options available to corporates,” said Noah. “Grandstand tickets became available only in 2010.” Members of the Eskom board and executive team were given tickets for themselves and their partners.
Eskom is engaged in fraught wage negotiations with labour unions that threaten to disrupt the supply of electricity during the period of the World Cup.
The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa, Solidarity and Eskom have been at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration for three weeks and, by Thursday, had not reached a settlement.
The unions are demanding a 9% wage increase across the board and a R4 000 monthly housing allowance.
On Wednesday night talks came to a halt. On Thursday unions were expecting a revised offer to be made in the afternoon.
“If there is no agreement, there is sufficient room for confrontation,” NUM spokesperson Lesiba Seshoka told the M&G on Thursday. “We don’t want to risk taking essential- services workers on strike. We would like to abide by the law, but Eskom is provoking its employees.
“You can see the workforce is reasonable; they have even lowered their demands. But Eskom continues to insult them by bragging that these workers are essential-services workers and cannot go on strike,” he said.
The unions will decide on further action at a shop steward council on Tuesday.