Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy Gwede Mantashe said that he refused to sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with European investors in renewable energy because he had not read it yet.
The Sunday Times reported that Mantashe refused to attend a top-level meeting held by President Cyril Ramaphosa with European leaders to sign a green energy memorandum of understanding.
Mantashe didn’t sign the $1 billion agreement with the Netherlands and Denmark because it was drafted without his input, citing the minister and other officials.
He was in Boksburg at a Cosatu event instead. International Relations Minister Naledi Pandor signed the MOU in his stead.
State-backed firms from the Netherlands agreed to back $1 billion of green hydrogen funds in South Africa.
According to statements, Climate Fund Managers, a Hague-based company owned by Netherlands’s development bank FMO and South African insurer Sanlam, and Invest International will help run and finance the initiatives.
According to the Sunday Times, Presidency insiders said the President was furious with Mantashe for not attending the event.
At a press conference on Monday, Mantashe said that his refusal to attend and sign the memorandum had “nothing to do with disagreement or defiance” towards President Ramaphosa.
“It does not mean that I do not believe in renewables,” Mantashe said.
“There is one reason: I do not sign an MOU that I have not read. If I am not given that MOU to read, then I will not sign it”.
Mantashe being petulant
Energy expert Chris Yelland told Newzroom Afrika that Mantashe was “petulant in his reasons for not signing”.
Yelland said the “minister is merely firefighting because of the already significant damage done”.
The question South Africans should ask is why Mantashe’s department did not present the document to him to read beforehand.
Another question is why Mantashe was seemingly unaware of the MOU if his department is responsible for procuring new electricity generation.
Yelland agreed that one should always read anything before signing but disagreed with how the minister raised the issue.
According to Yelland, this should not be aired publicly but should be dealt with behind closed doors between the President and Mantashe.
This debacle also raised the question of there being too many cooks in the kitchen concerning energy policy, with Yelland previously saying that policy was being “made on the hoof”.