President Cyril Ramaphosa was dealt a political blow on Tuesday, after a last-minute legal challenge by a group loyal to ousted leader Jacob Zuma blocked the signing of $4.7 billion in renewable energy deals.

The North Gauteng High Court agreed to hold a full hearing on the challenge on March 27 after the National Union of Metalworkers (NUMSA) and Transform RSA, a group which has lobbied for Zuma in the past, on Monday argued the deals would lead to coal-sector job losses and should be scrapped.

State power utility Eskom was due to sign 27 mostly wind power and solar deals with independent power producers (IPPs), in the first major investment deal since Ramaphosa replaced Zuma last month.

“We are confident that the court will recognise that our rights have been violated,” NUMSA said.

The projects were delayed for two years under Zuma as he pursued a much-criticised $100 billion nuclear power plan.

Ramaphosa, a wealthy businessman, has made revamping the economy a top priority. But many investors are concerned about his ability to push through reforms given deep divisions in the ruling African National Congress (ANC).

Zuma reluctantly resigned last month under sustained pressure from sections of the ANC but his allies remain in high-level roles in the party and are opposed to Ramaphosa. The question now is if Zuma is fighting back.


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