/ 5 January 2024

Ramaphosa clears confusion over Eskom ministers’ roles

President Ramaphosa Host Special Olympics Team At Union Buildings
President Cyril Ramaphosa. File photo

President Cyril Ramaphosa has clarified the respective roles of Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan and Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa in respect of arresting the Eskom-induced energy crisis.

According to a statement released on Friday, the two ministers have entered into a memorandum of understanding outlining their duties.

Ramokgopa’s appointment as electricity minister last March created some confusion about his role, as well as those of two ANC heavyweights in Gordhan and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe. In May 2023, Ramaphosa transferred certain powers under the Electricity Regulation Act to his new energy csar — relegating Mantashe in the process.

Friday’s statement notes that under the memorandum of understanding, Ramokgopa will focus full-time on all aspects of the electricity crisis and the work of the national energy crisis committee.

The electricity minister will also exercise authority over the Eskom board and management on ending load-shedding

Ramokgopa’s other duties include improving generation capacity and the purchase of additional capacity; overseeing implementation of the Eskom Generation Recovery Plan; ensuring that the generation fleet performs optimally; and ensuring that transmission-related matters are dealt with, including by helping to develop financing models.

Gordhan, on the other hand, will remain the shareholder representative of Eskom. In doing so, the public enterprises minister will support and assist Ramokgopa in his interactions with the utility’s board.

Gordhan is still charged with steering Eskom’s restructuring. The minister is also tasked with ensuring the establishment and operationalisation of Eskom’s transmission company, as well as overseeing the implementation of the utility’s just energy transition strategy.

“While significant progress has been made in reducing the severity of load-shedding, much work still needs to be done to guarantee a secure supply of electricity,” Ramaphosa said of the memorandum of understanding.

“The collaborative approach outlined in the memorandum of understanding will further strengthen Eskom’s efforts to resolve the electricity crisis. The ministers will work together more closely and with their respective responsibilities clearly outlined to ensure the effective implementation of the Energy Action Plan.”

According to the statement, the memorandum of understanding will only be in place until the end of the current administration.

Meanwhile, after enjoying some respite over the festive season, this week the country endured a fresh round of rolling blackouts. 

The energy crisis, which has helped precipitate a protracted economic downturn, is a thorn in the side of the governing ANC as the country heads to a potentially transformative national election later this year.