Solidarity Research Institute head Connie Mulder said Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe is delaying the energy transition because of vested interests and a Marxist ideology.
Mulder made the comments during a speech at the Free Market Foundation about Solidarity’s work to “Ensure the light at the end of the tunnel is on”.
He said Mantashe is a true Marxist, which means “he believes in the ideology until he starts drinking champagne. Now, suddenly, some animals are more equal than others”.
“Minister Mantashe, from what we can tell, has extensive vested interests in the coal mining industry and transporting coal,” Mulder said.
He does not personally own the interests. Instead, it is linked to many of his close associates benefitting from coal mining and transportation.
Mulder said this is why Mantashe has a hard line in consistently maintaining coal, even when it does not make sense.
Solidarity finds Mantashe’s fierce resistance to South Africa’s just energy transition particularly puzzling.
South Africa has signed several international agreements with which it needs to comply regarding moving from coal to renewable energy.
Along with the energy transition, massive amounts of funding – billions of Euros and Dollars – will come South Africa’s way.
From the country’s perspective, getting the just energy transition going as much as possible makes sense.
However, the Energy Minister is constantly pushing a decrepit coal fleet which cannot provide adequate electricity.
“The problem with Mantashe is a mixture between self-interests and his ideology that actors outside the state should not be allowed to do anything,” Mulder said.
“That means he cannot see a situation outside a single state utility providing all the power.”
Compared to international standards, South Africa is seen as old-fashioned in how it approaches its power generation. Most other countries have privatised generation.
Government’s resistance to the energy transition
Mulder’s comments echo former Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter’s concerns that the energy transition did not progress as planned.
De Ruyter expressed concerns about the government’s attempts to water down an $8.5 billion package to accelerate the country’s clean energy transition.
“The response was that you have to be pragmatic. To pursue the greater good, you have to enable some people to eat a little bit. It is entrenched,” he said.
He said there is little explanation for the vociferous opposition to starting the just energy transition.
Decarbonising the South African economy is essential to protecting the environment, growing the economy, and addressing energy security.
“Why else, except for vested interests, would you so absolutely resist even the commencement of the transition,” he asked.
De Ruyter raised the issue with one of his colleagues, and her response was telling. “But Andre, you are naïve. You are not showing the comrades a way to eat,” she said.
“There are so many vested interests in the coal value chain that the threat of decarbonisation is so eagerly opposed.”
Daily Investor asked the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy for comment about the accusations, but it did not respond by the time of publication.