The imminent threat of stage 6 loadshedding highlights the failures of the ANC government, and in particular a string of energy ministers and Eskom war rooms (led first by Cyril Ramaphosa and later by David Mabuza).
Gwede Mantashe, however, deserves singling out. As the minister responsible for securing South Africa’s electricity needs and planning its energy future, he has been obstructive and combative in his approach to dealing with proposed solutions.
Mantashe’s allegiance to outdated ideologies, his strong links to the unions (and in particular the National Union of Mineworkers, of which he was once the National Organizer and General Secretary), and his unwavering support for coal and nuclear, have placed him at the forefront of hindering a range of solutions to South Africa’s short term electricity generation crisis.
His continued belief in the Grand Inga hydroelectric power scheme and a nuclear new build as potential saviours point to the fact that Minister Mantashe is completely out of touch with both the scale of the immediate crisis, its impact on our people and our economy, and the timeframe within which solutions can be implemented.
With Eskom and the Department of Energy both admitting a shortfall of between 4000 and 6000 MW of generation capacity, the priority for the country must be to bring new generation online as quickly as possible – in a truly technology agnostic fashion, that prioritizes time and cost to implement.
The Eskom CEO, Andre de Ruyter, is on record as saying that all obstacles to new generation capacity must be lifted. This falls squarely within Mantashe’s purview. Additional priorities must include building up South Africa’s storage capacity – whether that be battery, pumped storage, or other methods of creating a dispatchable reserve, and the accelerated maintenance of the existing generation fleet.
The Democratic Alliance has, on numerous occasions, called for a national state of emergency to be declared in the electricity sector. It is our firm belief that NERSA and DMRE should immediately scrap the 2019 Integrated Resource Plan, in favour of an emergency procurement of new generation from independent power producers (IPPs) – without the preconditions and unnecessary localization requirements that form part of the RMIPPPP and REIPPPP processes. Eskom has indicated its willingness to come to the party by making more grid connections available to IPPs. It is time for the Minister of Energy to do the same.
At the same time, we call on NERSA to ease the regulatory environment for small scale embedded generation, and thereby make it easier for home users and small businesses to install their own electricity generation capacity. Instead of burdening them with additional registration and compliance requirements, we should make it easier, and incentivize them (through tax rebates) for doing so.
Mantashe has proven to be a complete failure when it comes to managing South Africa’s energy crisis. In addition, he is tainted by the findings of the Zondo Commission with regard to his Bosasa benefits and his role in cadre deployment and state capture. It is past time that Ramaphosa fires him, and replaces him with someone who is more in touch with the needs of the country.
If our country and our economy are to survive this crisis, Mantashe must go!