Electricity Minister powerless to end load-shedding

Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa is powerless to end load-shedding as the President has not given him sufficient powers to procure electricity for the country. 

Earlier this month, the ANC said President Cyril Ramaphosa will allocate more powers to Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa to accelerate efforts to end the nation’s power crisis. 

“He will be allocated more powers,” ANC Secretary General Fikile Mbalula said. “You can’t manage a sector or a crisis without powers.”

“The most important thing is to have power in order to be in a position to direct what needs to happen without asking from somebody else.”

Ramokgopa’s current powers preclude him from any procurement or dealing directly with Eskom’s board. 

Effectively, he needs the permission of Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan and Mineral and Energy Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe to make decisions.

Energy expert Mthunzi Luthuli explained to Newzroom Afrika that Ramokgopa could only determine the amount of new generation capacity South Africa needs and the sources of this capacity.

This renders him unable to fulfil his mandate of implementing the Energy Action Plan and bringing load-shedding to an end. 

“The powers that he has at the moment do not empower him fully to be able to fulfil his mandate,” Luthuli said. 

Luthuli also lamented that there were several delays in appointing an Electricity Minister, and then, once appointed, the Minister was powerless for two months. 

Now, a year later, the President is merely considering giving Ramokgopa the powers he needs to procure energy and bring load-shedding to an end. 

However, giving Ramokgopa new powers may raise tensions between ministers in Ramaphosa’s Cabinet. 

The new powers that may be granted to Ramokgopa will have to be taken from another Minister, most probably the Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy Gwede Mantashe. 

Mantashe currently oversees the procurement of new electricity generation, and his department houses the Independent Power Producers (IPP) office. 

The procurement of new generation capacity has effectively ceased, with the IPP office running three bid windows since 2020 that, to date, have connected only 150 MW to the grid. 

Luthuli suggested the DMRE should be split into two ministries, one overseeing the country’s mineral resources and one overseeing energy policy. This would effectively take over the Ministry of Electricity. 

This would create one point of accountability for Eskom and speed up decision-making processes.

The Electricity Ministry did not respond to a request for comment by the time of publication.  


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