/ 26 May 2023

Ramaphosa gives electricity minister new powers, elbows Mantashe out

President Cyril Ramaphosa (right) and Gwede Mantashe. (Gianluigi Guercia/AFP)

President Cyril Ramaphosa has stripped Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe of his powers under the Electricity Regulation Act and transferred them to Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa. 

Ramaphosa’s announcement comes after months of speculation about whether he would finally give Ramokgopa the powers he needed to implement the government’s response to South Africa’s energy crisis.   

“President Cyril Ramaphosa has in terms of section 97 of the Constitution signed a proclamation that transfers to the minister of electricity certain powers and functions entrusted by the Electricity Regulation Act,” a statement from the presidency said on Friday.

“This proclamation will provide the minister of electricity with the powers necessary to direct the procurement of new generation capacity and ensure security of supply.”

Ramaphosa appointed Ramokgopa as his electricity czar in March but delayed transferring the necessary political authority he needed to carry out his mandate, frustrating the new minister.

His creation of a new electricity ministry had shocked the president’s allies, including Mantashe. The move was seen by Ramaphosa’s inner circles as an effort to contain his two most powerful cabinet ministers, Mantashe and Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan, who were battling for control over energy. 

Clashes between the two crippled efforts to manage the energy crisis, which has battered the economy and threatens food security.

Ramaphosa’s first attempt at stripping Mantashe of his powers was thwarted by the ANC heavyweight who challenged the president to fire him. 

Mantashe has acted as the pitbull in Ramaphosa’s corner, protecting him when he faced an attack in the ANC’s national executive committee over the Phala Phala saga. Mantashe is said to have used his position as party chair to subdue ANC leaders who were calling for Ramaphosa’s head. 

A fallout between the two over the electricity ministry could jeopardise their alliance in the ANC. 

In Friday’s statement, the presidency said Ramaphosa had also transferred to the electricity minister powers and functions set out in section 34(2) of the Electricity Regulation Act.

Section 34 of the Act allows Ramokgopa to determine: 

  • That new generation capacity is needed to ensure the continued uninterrupted supply of electricity; 
  • The types of energy sources from which electricity must be generated, and the percentages of electricity that must be generated from such sources; 
  • That electricity thus produced may only be sold to the persons or in the manner set out in such notice; 
  • That electricity thus produced must be purchased by the persons set out in such notice. 

The Act also requires that new generation capacity must be established through a tendering procedure that is fair, equitable, transparent, competitive and cost-effective and provides for private sector participation.

“Other powers and functions contained in the Electricity Regulation Act — including those related to the implementation of determinations made in terms of section 34 — will remain with the minister of mineral resources and energy,” the presidency said.

It added that Ramaphosa’s delineation of powers and functions was directed at ensuring effective coordination and dedicated focus to deal more effectively and urgently with the electricity crisis.

“The minister of electricity will, as the president indicated in the State of the Nation address, oversee all aspects of the electricity crisis response, including the work of the national energy crisis committee,” it said.

“This will provide a single point of command for the government’s efforts to close the shortfall in electricity supply. The minister will work full-time with the Eskom board and management to end load-shedding and ensure that the Energy Action Plan announced by the president is implemented without delay.”