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Musical chairs of SA electricity power: Who moved my cheese?

Friday passed, and the Minister of Electricity, Kgosientsho Ramokgopa, did not give his update on the Energy Action Plan, said the author. Photo: file ANA

Friday passed, and the Minister of Electricity, Kgosientsho Ramokgopa, did not give his update on the Energy Action Plan, said the author. Photo: file ANA

Published May 31, 2023


The battlefront for the control of Eskom intensifies, and the three Ministers (the 3 mouse-kateers) placed in charge of Eskom are about to bash heads over the split mandate as to who is responsible and controls what in Eskom.

In a short media statement, the President announced the transfer of powers to the Minister of Electricity. The statement reads:

‘’(The President has signed a proclamation that transfers to the Minister of Electricity certain powers and functions entrusted by the Electricity Regulation Act (Act No 4 of 2006). Specifically, this relates to all powers and functions contained in Section 34(1) of the Electricity Regulation Act, which were previously entrusted to the Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy.

Section 34(1) of the Electricity Regulation Act empowers the Minister to issue a determination that new generation capacity is needed in order to ensure security of energy supply. This includes the amount of new capacity that must be procured; the type of capacity (for example, wind or solar PV); and the manner in which it must be procured.

This provides the Minister with a powerful tool to address South Africa’s current energy shortfall by directing the actions that are required to build new generation capacity.

This division of responsibilities will allow the Minister in the Presidency responsible for Electricity to apply a dedicated focus to the immediate crisis response while other functions remain with the relevant Ministries.)’’ statement ends.

Another statement was released earlier in the week. In a Cabinet statement, the government took an opportunity to wage in their view on the electricity crisis. To my disappointment, the statement was very shallow. The Cabinet statement didn't address the fundamental issues facing the energy crisis.

Instead, Cabinet opted to rubbish any views about the possible total blackout and grid collapse as fake news. There was not even a sentence in their statement that said they were worried and concerned about the reported eminent total blackout and grid collapse.

The Cabinet meeting chose to rather rattle off and make more unrealistic statements about sorting the energy crisis and ending load shedding. This is a synopsis of what the May 24, 2023, Cabinet Meeting said about the energy crisis and ending load shedding:

1 Energy

1.1. Cabinet noted the progress made in the implementation of the Energy Action Plan, while it acknowledges significant constraints that still remain against the national grid.

1.2. As the country enters the winter period, Cabinet welcomed the finalisation of the contract for 400 megawatts (MW) of additional capacity through the Standard Offer Programme, which will be online before the end of May 2023.

1.3. Furthermore, the Department of Health has identified 213 hospitals for exclusion from load-shedding, with 76 of these already excluded and work to add another 46 hospitals at an advanced stage.

1.4. Cabinet further welcomed the imminent launch of the Energy One-Stop Shop on May 31, 2023, by Invest SA to speed up the regulatory processes that will assist new power-generating companies to come on board.

1.5. It has noted progress made at the Kusile Power Station to restore 3 200 MW, through units 1, 2, 3 and 5, to the national grid by the end of 2023.

1.6. Cabinet is concerned about the continued circulation of fake news through social media, alleging an imminent national grid collapse that will result in a total blackout. Eskom has assured government of plans in place for the system safeguards to prevent a national blackout.

1.7. Cabinet reiterates calls to all people in South Africa to continue to save electricity. The target is to save at least 1 000 MW every day, which equals saving one stage of load ­shedding each day.

1.8. The Minister of Electricity, Dr Kgosientsho Ramokgopa, will update the country on the implementation of the Energy Action Plan on Friday, 26 May 2023, through a media briefing),’’ end of the statement.

As promised, but not delivered. Friday passed, and the Minister of Electricity did not give his update on the Energy Action Plan. And I can assure you, there wasn't much to update, any ways. The expected update from the Minister of Electricity on the Energy Action Plan was, in a way, substituted by the Presidency's announcement over the transfer of powers to the Minister of Electricity.

The energy crisis is getting worse, with South Africa at Stage 6 permanently. You must be worried when one of the Cabinet meeting objectives to end load shedding is premised on forcing electricity users to save on using electricity rather than fixing broken down units at power stations. This must be the joke of the century. Eskom is the only company I know of that produces a product, but advises its users to use their product sparingly and use less of the product.

On another note, I think Sakina Kamwendo should apologise to Minister Ramokgopha for calling him a mere project manager, but in hindsight, the Electricity Minister’s newly-conferred powers still relegates him to the role of an Electricity crisis coordinator and project manager.

Will this newly conferred powers on the Minister of Electricity return Eskom to its former glory? Will the three mouse-kateers use their powers to turnaround Eskom into a successful business? Will the new Minister abuse his powers and cause more graft and corruption? Only time will tell.

Adil Nchabeleng is President of Transform RSA and an Independent Energy Expert.