/ 6 March 2023

Kgosientsho Ramokgopa gets green light for minister of electricity

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Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa

President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday announced Kgosientsho Sputla Ramokgopa as the new minister of electricity who will focus on solving the power crises at Eskom.

“The state of disaster will allow the new electricity minister to exclude certain institutions from load-shedding. This minister will remain in office for as long as it’s necessary to resolve the energy crisis,” Ramaphosa said as he announced a cabinet reshuffle in a live television address.

He said the electricity minister would be expected to coordinate all departments responsible for energy response, and would also be responsible for turnaround plans and overseeing new generation capacity.

“The electricity minister’s primary task will be to reduce the severity and frequency of load-shedding, to oversee the electricity crisis response. He will have political responsibility over all aspects of the energy action plan,” Ramaphosa said, adding that the new minister would “expedite various regulatory processes for energy projects; and enable Eskom to undertake critical maintenance more quickly and efficiently”.

Ramaphosa announced in his state of the nation address last month that he would appoint an electricity minister to resolve the Eskom crisis and also declared a state of disaster to deal with the power shortages affecting the country.

Eskom, once an award-winning utility, is battling to keep the lights on and has plunged South Africa into permanent load-shedding. The utility has implemented rolling power cuts for years now, but 2022 was the worst and 2023 has commenced with even longer outages.

Dealing with the power cuts

Ramaphosa said the electricity minister would help curb the rampant corruption and mismanagement that have put the country in the dark and that they would work with both the energy and public enterprise ministers to solve load-shedding.

Eskom is fighting corruption and looting allegations flagged by former CEO Andre de Ruyter. De Ruyter said there was a security report into the utility detailing one month of corruption and sabotage at some of Eskom’s plants in Mpumalanga and that two cabinet ministers were involved in the graft.

Ramokgopa confirmed his interest in the position last month when he published a 37-page document titled SA’s Infrastructure Emergency: An Urgent and Collaborative Intervention. He warned that the country was headed for economic collapse, including its water and port infrastructure.

“In terms of the state of energy, it is no longer a crisis but rather an emergency. The country’s inability to provide sustainable and reliable sources of power has long posed an immediate risk, with the situation drastically deteriorating daily,” Ramokgopa wrote.

Who is Ramokgopa?

He was the presidency head of investment and infrastructure and previously served as leader of the South African Student Congress, the ANC Youth League at the University of Durban Westville and the ANC branch in Atteridgeville. He was the ANC ward 51 councillor from 2000 to 2005. 

He served as CEO of the Metropolitan Trading Company, an entity of the City of Johannesburg, CEO of the Johannesburg Market, and deputy chairperson of the board of trade and investment in Limpopo.

Ramokgopa was Tshwane mayor from 2010 to 2016 and was also a member of the executive council in the Gauteng government in 2019.

He was a member of the executive council for economic development, agriculture, and environment for less than five months before he resigned amid reported pressure from the ANC to appoint a woman to the position.

He holds a number of academic qualifications, including a BSc in Civil Engineering from the University of Durban Westville (now a campus of the University of KwaZulu-Natal), Master of Public Administration (University of Pretoria) and Master of Business Leadership (Unisa).

He also has a certificate in executive development from Stellenbosch University and a PhD in public affairs from the University of Pretoria.

Mandisa Nyathi is a climate reporting fellow, funded by the Open Society Foundation for South Africa.