Will Minister Ramokgopa use his new powers wisely?
South Africa has waited more than three months for clarity on what Minister of Electricity Kgosientsho Ramokgopa will do. Now that he has new powers, we hope he will use these for the benefit of the country.
Today the President finally transferred some limited powers to Minister Ramokgopa, removing these from Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy Gwede Mantashe. The powers indicate that Ramokgopa is expected to issue a determination for new generation to be sourced from independent power producers (IPPs) and to direct the type of generation this must be.
The minister has the powers linked to section 34(1) and certain powers linked to 34(2) of the Electricity Regulation Act. This allows him to determine that new generation capacity is needed, determine the types of energy sources from which electricity must be generated (such as renewables, gas or even nuclear), and provide for private sector participation, through independent power producers (IPPs).
“This proclamation will provide the Minister of Electricity with the powers necessary to direct the procurement of new generation capacity and ensure security of supply,” said the President’s statement.
In February, the Budget included huge bailouts for Eskom. The conditions attached to the bailouts (see here) include blocking Eskom from any new borrowing and from building any new generation itself. Thus, any new generation must be sourced from IPPs.
The removal of any powers from the obstructive Minister Mantashe is welcomed. He has not helped find solutions to the electricity crisis. However, while Minister Ramokgopa may issue determinations about new generation, Minister Mantashe must sign the contracts. More conflict may lie ahead.
OUTA is also concerned that Minister Ramokgopa will use his powers to order gas from powerships, leading to speedy Karpowership contracts, or even nuclear power. We hope he will use his powers to bring on board the renewable energy that Minister Mantashe has for years resisted.
OUTA notes that the President has not mentioned whether Minister Ramokgopa gets any staff or funding to go with his new powers, which may constrain what he is able to do. We hope he will use the President’s National Energy Crisis Committee and take advice from the experts rather than from ANC “experts” who prioritise personal benefits over public good.
OUTA is also concerned that Parliament has decided that it will not set up a committee to oversee Minister Ramokgopa’s work. This Minister has been tasked by the President to resolve South Africa’s worst, most pressing and potentially most expensive problem. It is inexcusable for Parliament to abdicate its oversight responsibilities in this way, and indicates that parliamentarians do not have a grasp on the problems facing South Africa.
A soundclip with comment by OUTA Executive Director Advocate Stefanie Fick is here.