Electricity minister Kgosientsho Ramakgopa. (Theana Breugem/Foto24/Gallo Images)
Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa has again called for the government to give him more powers over the Eskom board so that he can execute his duties.
Ramokgopa is said to have made the call during the ANC’s national working committee (NWC) meeting on Monday.
Insiders close to the talks said the NWC had instead deferred the matter to ANC officials to consider.
“The NWC did not even get to discuss coalitions. We adjourned the meeting after a decision was made for the officials to come back to us,” the NWC member said, adding that a special national executive committee (NEC) was expected to take place this week to discuss the provincial and national lists for the elections.
The matter of Ramokgopa’s powers was a point of contention in October, when the party held its ordinary NEC meeting.
According to insiders, one of Ramokgopa’s frustrations is governmental red tape that has hindered the power utility from accessing 200 megawatts offered to Eskom by Namibia and Mozambique.
Ramokgopa’s spokesperson, Tsakane Khambane, previously told the Mail & Guardian the delay was caused by the government’s procurement processes.
“Because Eskom is a governmental institution, it is tied to Public Finance Management Act rules. It does not have the flexibility to go and procure megawatts without accountability, which is why it has to go through a process to acquire these megawatts. Eskom is the one talking to EDM [Electricidade de Moçambique, the Mozambique power utility] because it has the ability to house the megawatts that we receive,” she said.
In September, Eskom spokesperson Daphne Mokwena said the power utility was waiting for the Eskom board to approve its plans to procure more gas-to-power megawatts from Mozambique.
“We are importing an additional 180 megawatts from Cahora Bassa [Mozambique] compared to last year. Additional opportunities for green fields projects [renewable projects by independent power producers] will be pursued from November subject to board approval of a procurement programme, which has been finalised following Nersa’s [National Energy Regulator of South Africa’s] approval in July,” she said.
The M&G understands that Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan came under fire during the NWC meeting over delays in Eskom acquiring the much needed megawatts.
“The leadership must deal with the problem. If the minister [Ramokgopa] … is frustrated all we can do at the level of the working committee and NEC is to mandate the top leadership to deal with the issue because these things need to happen at the level of government but if the government cannot aid the minister, the leadership must intervene. That is what needs to happen,” an NWC member said.
Another NWC member told the M&G that the NWC expressed frustration about contradicting messages by the Eskom board and Ramokgopa over the deadline to end load-shedding.
The NWC is said to have been unhappy with Eskom’s acting board chairperson, Mteto Nyathi. Nyathi, as well as Mpho Makwana — who quit as board chair amid claims he was at odds with Gordhan — have predicted that load-shedding is likely to continue for the next 24 months.
This contradicts Ramokgopa’s statements that load-shedding is likely to be over by year end.
“We are not happy with the board and its messaging around load-shedding. The messaging is not in line with the mandate of the ANC. Overall the NWC is not happy with the board and Minister Gordhan,” the second NWC member said.
In May, after calls for Ramokgopa to receive more powers to execute his duties, President Cyril Ramaphosa stripped Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe of his powers under the Electricity Regulation Act and transferred them to the electricity minister.
In the May statement, the presidency said Ramaphosa had also transferred to Ramokgopa the powers and functions set out in section 34(2) of the Electricity Regulation Act.
Section 34 of the Act allows Ramokgopa to determine whether new generation capacity is needed to ensure the continued uninterrupted supply of electricity.
In October, the NEC called for Ramokgopa to have more powers to work more closely with the board.
The NEC is said to have believed that to eliminate the governance problems Ramokgopa should oversee the board — at least for the short term.
Ramaphosa then asked for time to look at this possibility in terms of legislation and the law.