Energy minister has made her bed

Minerals and Energy Affairs Minister Buyelwa Sonjica on Tuesday denied advising South Africans to go to bed early as a means of conserving electricity.

“That speech didn’t say ‘Go to bed, go to bed, go to bed’,” she said at a media briefing at the launch of the department’s national energy efficiency campaign.

Sonjica said people did not understand how Parliament worked and while she was making a speech (on energy saving ideas) in Parliament she was interrupted by heckling.

“Tony Leon [MP and former Democratic Allicance leader] said: ‘Minister, what do you do after you go to bed?’, and I said ‘Go to bed, you are stupid, you go to bed ... and you will become clever’.

“It is unfortunate that you [the media] have trivialised it ... it has become international news.”

The South African Press Association (Sapa) quoted Zonjica as telling a special sitting of Parliament on January 30: “Go to sleep earlier so that you can grow and be cleverer. Boil less water; use the microwave rather than the stove; take a shower and not a shallow bath”.

Sapa also reported that Sonjica was loudly jeered when she thanked the African National Congress for the leadership “it has provided in helping us deal with this emergency”.

At the briefing on Tuesday, Sonjica said energy efficiency campaign would include the immediate implementation of a power rationing programme, restricting the sale of incandescent light bulbs, and a penalty and incentive scheme to conserve electricity.

Permanent solutions

Earlier, the minister said that permanent solutions to the country’s energy crisis are being sought.

“I concede that this situation impacts negatively on planned output of the country’s mining operations,” Sonjica said at a mining indaba in Cape Town.

Urging all mining companies to continue honouring their commitments to be energy efficient and innovative in conserving energy at their operations while the government “persists in securing adequate supply in the medium term”, Sonjica blamed the recent energy shortages on the unprecedented demand at the hands of faster-than-expected economic growth.

Meanwhile, global resources giant Anglo American does not regard South Africa’s present electricity crisis as a “disaster”, Anglo chief executive Cynthia Carroll said on Tuesday.

Speaking during the opening session of the mining indaba, she said while the group’s substantial project pipeline requires stability of energy supplies, Anglo American did not “regard the energy challenge as a disaster”.

Carroll said South Africa was certainly not alone. She said Chile, Brazil and China were also suffering energy supply restrictions.

“Whatever the reasons [for the energy challenge], this is not the time for finger-pointing,” said Carroll, adding that it was necessary for all stakeholders to look for solutions. - Sapa

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