Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa hit back at accusations that he misled South Africans about a partnership with China related to the energy crisis.
Last week, Daily Investor reported that Ramokgopa provided scant detail about the agreement he signed on behalf of South Africa with eight Chinese companies.
The article quoted energy expert Hilton Trollip, who said Ramokgopa is misleading the public by talking in “mini-facts and non-facts”.
Trollip said in an interview regarding the deal that he was unsure if any substance or conditions were attached to the Chinese aid.
“I am always looking for substance in the Electricity Minister’s pronouncements and never find any,” Trollip said.
“I find promises. I find agreements. I find numbers. But I don’t find action. I cannot find any substance in his latest announcement.”
One of the points of contention was alternative energy sources that would be provided to public facilities such as schools, clinics, and hospitals.
The SABC reported that the Chinese government has agreed to supply South Africa with emergency equipment to help cushion public facilities like schools and hospitals from load-shedding.
In an interview, Ramokgopa said the first area of cooperation is around alternative energy sources provided to public facilities.
“On an administrative level, it has been concluded. The shipment is on its way. We should be able to cater to between 300 and 400 of these facilities,” he said.
The Chinese companies are donating 552 alternative energy units ranging from 6 kW generators to 200 kW generators.
Ramokgopa told the SABC that remote, rural areas will be prioritised as they cannot realistically be exempted from load-shedding.
The equipment will be given to individual provinces, which will then decide which facilities will receive the alternative energy units.
He added that public facilities benefitting from alternative energy sources will also help reduce load-shedding.
“It means that we are relieving the grid. That excess capacity will be distributed to other load centres and reduces the intensity of load-shedding,” he said.
Trollip dismissed the 450 backup electricity generation units as insignificant, highlighting that there are 23,000 public schools alone in South Africa.
Ramokgopa’s ministry has hit back, saying it noted numerous inaccuracies that qualify the article as misleading.
It said it was not correct to say that the Memorandum of Cooperation was to ensure that all public health facilities, schools, and police stations have alternative sources of energy.
“The Memorandum of Cooperation signed with eight Chinese companies focuses on enhancing South Africa’s energy security through infrastructure and technology development, human capital development, and research, amongst other objectives,” the ministry said.
It added that the substance of the agreement in the Daily Investor article relates to the Exchange of Letters and resultant Technical Assistance Programme, under which the Chinese government will donate emergency equipment to South Africa.
This agreement was signed during the People’s Republic of China’s Head of State Visit to South Africa at the Union Buildings on 22 August 2023.
Under the programme, the first shipment will include 450 petrol generators, which will be deployed to critical facilities, including hospitals and clinics.
“The minister has been consistent in stating that the facilities will be identified by provinces,” the Ministry of Electricity said.
It further disputed that the details and potential benefits of the Memorandum of Cooperation signed with the eight Chinese companies were scanty.
“The substance and details of the agreement were openly presented during an open signing ceremony attended by media,” it said.
Ramokgopa also stated in a later interview that there are “no strings attached” to the agreement.