South Africa

Confusion over new electricity minister

There is widespread confusion over the plan to add a minister of electricity to the Presidency, which could hamper decision-making and hurt Eskom rather than help it.

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced at the state of the nation address (SONA) on Thursday that a minister of electricity will be appointed to the Presidency.

“The minister will focus full-time and work with the Eskom board and management on ending load shedding and ensuring that the Energy Action Plan is implemented without delay,” said Ramaphosa.

It was not long before the confusion started.

The Sunday Times reported that many ANC leaders were perplexed by the appointment, noting that no one really knew what this minister’s role would be and whether or not it would be a temporary position.

Energy minister Gwede Mantashe also weighed in on the matter, saying he sees the decision as the mere appointment of a ‘project manager’ for Eskom.

Apart from uncertainty about the role of the new energy minister, there are also concerns that it will add complexity to an already bureaucratic system.

Chris Yelland, energy analyst and managing director of EE Business Intelligence, told Daily Investor that South Africa’s electricity governance structure was already very complicated.

Yelland says that there will be five different ministries responsible for electricity governance if a Department of Electricity is created for the new minister.

  • The Department of Mineral Resources and Energy
  • The Department of Public Enterprises
  • The Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs
  • National Treasury
  • The newly established Electricity Minister.

These authorities do not always agree and often publicly issue contradictory views.  

Yelland says that having five different ministries does not bode well “for effective fast and decisive decision making” because it will be difficult for many ministers, who hold different world views and positions on electricity policy, to act in unison. 

Separation of responsibility

Business Leadership South Africa (BLSA) said a clear separation of responsibilities for addressing the electricity crisis is required.

“Delineating clear responsibilities will be important, particularly between the ministers of energy and electricity,” BLSA said.

BLSA added that they were encouraged by the President’s move to appoint a minister of electricity.

“We hope the new minister will be able to accelerate the processes needed to address both the short-term imperative of addressing load-shedding and the longer-term need to increase the country’s electricity generation capacity at a faster pace.”

The CEO of Business Unity South Africa (BUSA), Cas Coovadia, is less optimistic about the new energy minister.

He said the decision to appoint a new minister of electricity would lead to “turf wars” rather than solving the electricity crisis.

“It is yet another example of failure to take bold decisions and opting instead for the soft but expensive option of adding another ministry rather than holding those ministers responsible for the crisis accountable,” said Coovadia.


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