The appointment of an Electricity Minister to oversee Eskom and implement the Energy Action Plan was puzzling, strange, and unhelpful as, without simplifying reporting lines, it just added another layer of bureaucracy at the utility.
This is feedback from former Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter, who told Business Day Spotlight that the Minister also does not have adequate powers to fulfil his mandate.
“The appointment of an Electricity Minister was a somewhat puzzling move because, at my time at Eskom, we were already stretched thin in terms of making presentations to and attending meetings with government officials,” De Ruyter said on the podcast.
He said that Eskom’s management team was already having meetings at all hours “to meet the needs of various members of the Cabinet to remain informed”.
“The introduction of an additional layer, without simplifying reporting lines, that probably was not helpful,” De Ruyter said.
The former CEO said Eskom already had multiple lines of accountability, reporting to its shareholder representative, Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan, and the Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, Gwede Mantashe.
“So, I don’t think the mandate of Minister Ramokgopa has been clarified properly at any time, and I don’t think he seems to be very sure himself of what he is supposed to be doing,” De Ruyter added.
These concerns from De Ruyter echo those of energy expert Mthunzi Luthul, who said that Minister Kgosientsho 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.
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 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 heading 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 to comment prior to publication.