As anticipated, Dr Kgosientso Ramokgopa has been appointed as South Africa’s Minister of Electricity, a position which President Cyril Ramaphosa described as transitory and which has been created specifically to coordinate efforts to tackle the “severity and frequency of loadshedding as a matter of urgency”.
“To effectively oversee the electricity crisis response, the appointed Minister will have political responsibility, authority and control over all critical aspects of the Energy Action Plan.
“This will help to deal with the challenge of fragmentation of responsibility across various departments and Ministers which, while appropriate under normal circumstances, is not conducive to a crisis response,” Ramaphosa announced in a much-anticipated and delayed address from the Union Buildings in Pretoria on Monday night.
“This Minister will remain in office for as long as it is necessary to resolve the electricity crisis.”
Ramokgopa, who was previously the Mayor of Tshwane and more recently the head of the investment and infrastructure office in the Presidency, will also liaise with other relevant Ministers “to ensure coherence in the issuing of directions during the National State of Disaster”.
The State of Disaster was declared during Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation Address on February 9, but the regulations giving effect to the declaration were only published on February 28, with the directions to give effect to those regulations yet to be issued by the various responsible Ministers.
The State of Disaster is being challenged legally and is strongly opposed by several opposition parties, as is the decision to add yet another Minister to what has been described as a bloated Cabinet – one that already has an energy minister responsible for policy and a public enterprises minister with shareholder responsibility for Eskom.
Neither Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe nor Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan were removed.
However, Ramaphosa decided to not only name a Minister for Electricity, but also named a fourth Minister in the Presidency, Maropene Ramokgopa, with responsibility for Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation “to focus greater attention on the performance of government”.
Former Minister in the Presidency Mondli Gungubele, has swapped roles with Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, and is now Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies, while Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma has been shifted to become Minister in the Presidency responsible for Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities.
The President said the Minister of Electricity would be expected to “facilitate the coordination of the numerous departments and entities involved in the crisis response, work with the Eskom leadership to turn around the performance of existing power stations, and accelerate the procurement of new generation capacity”.
“To enable the Minister to do this work, I will, in terms of section 97 of the Constitution, transfer to them certain powers and functions contained in relevant legislation,” he said, without providing specifics.
Also as widely expected, Ramaphosa named African National Congress deputy President Paul Mashatile as the country’s new Deputy President.
Mashatile replaces David Mabuza, who stepped down on March 1.
Business Unity South Africa CEO Cas Coovadia said that, while the organisation had misgivings over the appointment of a Minister of Electricity in a context where there were already two Ministers with responsibility in the area, it would seek to urgently engage with Ramokgopa on the Energy Action Plan and on ways to tackle loadshedding.
Speaking on eNCA, Coovadia said Ramokgopa would also need to clarify his role relative to those of Mantashe and Gordhan, with Mantashe having already indicated that he sees the Minister of Electricity playing the role of “project manager” in addressing the electricity crisis.
“What we need now, is for the Cabinet to be aligned behind the President’s vision.
“We have had a Cabinet that has been misaligned, we have had a Cabinet when two or three Ministers would send different messages on the same issue – that does not instil confidence, that creates more confusion,” Coovadia said, indicating that business will be watching closely to see how the new Ministers performed.
“The critical message is that the country has severe crises [and] these people need to be up and running; they need to implement policy decisions that have already been taken and we would urge them to take up the offer from business to work with government to provide capacity and resources in a real partnership to actually make a difference in the national interest.”
Minerals Council South Africa CEO Roger Baxter described Ramokgopa’s appointment as a good one.
“The Minerals Council has worked with him in the past and we look forward to working with him to help resolve South Africa’s electricity crisis.
“It’s important that the other components of government align with the presidency to achieve the objectives of the electricity recovery plan,” Baxter said, highlighting that the private sector had more than 9 GW of renewable-energy projects worth more than R160-billion that could be built in the next five years.
“We look forward to working with Dr Ramokgopa to expedite these projects, removing all red tape and bottle necks, including strengthening the transmission infrastructure which is vital to unlock the private sector’s contribution to resolving the crisis.”