By Zukile Majova
President Cyril Ramaphosa has tasked one of his key loyalists with the job of saving the country from an electricity crisis that is costing the economy over R1 billion a day.
Dr Kgosientsho “Sputla” Ramokgopa, who until now was the Head of Investment and Infrastructure in the presidency, has been hailed as a good “project manager” but not a real minister.
The real strong man in South Africa’s energy sector, Gwede Mantashe the coal fundamentalist Minister of Minerals and Energy, was the first to describe him as a “project manager”. He later said he was not losing sleep over the appointment of an electricity minister.
Mantashe has been reelected as national chairperson of the ANC and leads a powerful lobby that wants to ensure coal remains the main source of energy in South Africa for the foreseeable future.
Ramakgopa, the ousted Tshwane regional chairperson has no political muscle to take on Mantashe, the man largely blamed for the snail’s pace in unleashing the potential of the green economy.
At number 49 in the 87-member ANC national executive committee, the “project manager” then is a political junior in a lion’s den.
Ramaphosa is clearly aware of the political tussle for control of Eskom and the energy sector. However, he still insists his man will successfully “facilitate the coordination of the numerous departments and entities involved in the crisis response, work with the Eskom leadership to turn around the performance of existing power stations, and accelerate the procurement of new generation capacity”.
He said: “To effectively oversee the electricity crisis response, the appointed Minister will have political responsibility, authority and control over all critical aspects of the Energy Action Plan.”
As the Minister of Electricity, Ramokgopa is expected to drive the R300 billion recapitalisation of Eskom, reduce load shedding and stabilise the supply of electricity to the country’s industries and mines.
Making the announcement at the Union Buildings in Pretoria on Monday night, Ramaphosa promised to arm his pointsman on load shedding with more powers under the national state of disaster.
“To enable the Minister to do this work, I will, in terms of section 97 of the Constitution, transfer to them certain powers and functions contained in relevant legislation.”
Ramokgopa’s other weakness is that he has no background in the coal mining sector, the electricity sector and the renewable energy sector.
The battle to end load shedding includes securing a reliable supply of A-grade coal to Eskom plants.
The renewable energy sector expects the new minister to fast track the implementation of the R155 billion Just Energy Transition Framework.
Pictured above: Kgosientsho Ramokgopa has been appointed Minister of Electricity
Image source: @Kgosientsho_R