There has been growing concern over President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement that the government will be looking to appoint an ‘electricity minister’ to deal specifically with the energy crisis in South Africa.
However, energy minister Gwede Mantashe sees the decision as the mere appointment of a ‘project manager’ for Eskom.
The Sunday Times reported that many ANC leaders were confused with the appointment, noting that no one really knew what this minister’s role would be and whether or not it would be a temporary position.
Ramaphosa’s move ruffled some feathers within the ruling party ANC by going against a recent caucus decision to shift Eskom to the energy ministry – headed by the minister of mineral resources and energy Gwede Mantashe.
Mantashe, however, who also serves as the national chair of the ANC, didn’t seem fazed by the president’s appointment.
He viewed the newly created electricity ministry as nothing but a project management intervention to deal specifically with load-shedding, reported the Sunday Times.
“To me, my understanding of this intervention from the president is that we must approach this issue as a project management intervention so that we project-manage the management of load-shedding,” said Mantashe.
He added that the announcement does not change the ANC 55th national conference resolution for Eskom to be moved to his department.
ANC secretary-general Fikile Mbalula agreed with Mantashe’s sentiments, saying that the “project manager” would merely be responsible for ensuring mitigating targets are met and that Eskom will be handed over to the DMRE minister.
The new position was announced during the president’s latest State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Thursday, 9 January.
During SONA, Ramaphosa outlined broad plans to tackle the ongoing energy crisis relating to the failing power utility Eskom – including declaring it a national state of disaster.
Despite the president’s promises of action on Thursday, civil society, businesses and political parties have not been convinced by the state of the disaster or the creation of an electricity minister.
Some of these sentiments were also shared within the ANC and by some of its allies.
Regarding the new minister, Cosatu president Zingiswa Losi said the appointment was unnecessary as the existing deputy minister of monitoring and evaluation could have been given the task.
Fikile Mbalula agreed and said the party would cross swords with the president if the electricity ministry is made permanent, which would mean a total departure and replication of responsibility.
In terms of private sector concerns, the Consumer Goods Council, which represents large retailers across the country, said the announcement of the appointment of the electricity minister is of significant concern.
“It is inconceivable that the president is considering this appointment in these tough economic times and in the context of a bloated public wage bill. We believe that cabinet should rather appoint a skilled, operational and hands-on person, at a Director-General level, to perform this task,” said the council.
The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) said that the move is unnecessary and that cabinet is already bloated. Another set of eyes on the problem is unlikely to achieve anything other than further hamper processes, said the organisation.
The opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA), said that the possible new appointment would cost a lot and is a politically motivated move.
The party’s public service and administration specialist Leon Schreiber said that Ramaphosa had abused the energy crisis to create another job for a cadre.
Using the current ministerial handbook to determine the cost of the new appointment on taxpayers, the DA calculated that the new minister’s office could run around R8.6 million for the salary packages for those employed.