South Africa’s governing party is pressuring President Cyril Ramaphosa to bring an end to territorial battles among his senior ministers over energy policy as the nation continues to battle crippling power cuts.
Two months after Ramaphosa appointed Kgosientsho Ramokgopa as electricity minister, the president has yet to clarify what powers he’ll be assigned. That decision will affect the energy and public enterprises ministries, which respectively oversee energy policy and state power utility Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd.
“We didn’t appoint a minister of electricity for him to struggle for powers,” African National Congress Secretary-General Fikile Mbalula told reporters Friday at the start of a four-day meeting of the party’s top leaders.
Ramaphosa “is the president of the country and the president of the ANC. He must intervene and he can’t allow anarchy in this moment when we need to keep the lights on,” he said.
Africa’s most-industrialized nation has been subjected to rolling power cuts almost every day this year as Eskom, which supplies about 90% of the country’s electricity, fails to meet demand from its dilapidated plants. The crisis is eroding the nation’s economic-growth prospects, disrupting supply chains and stoking inflation.
Eskom is currently implementing so-called stage six load shedding — removing 6,000 megawatts from the grid and effectively leaving residents without power for at least 10 hours a day. In a worst-case scenario, South Africa faces five months of more severe outages — or stage eight load shedding — unless there is an intervention, a government official said on Thursday.
Ramaphosa’s decision to appoint an electricity minister was widely seen as a way to avoid dealing with ongoing tensions between Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan and Mineral and Energy Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe — two of his close political allies — over who has ultimate responsibility for electricity provision.
Mantashe is the ANC’s chairman and Ramaphosa risks alienating him should he curtail his powers.
“We expect the president to run his cabinet, not his cabinet running itself,” Mbalula said. “If he has a problem with that, then we will have a problem with him.”
Ramokgopa was due to present a proposal to the ANC’s National Executive Committee on Friday on how to end the outages. The panel will insist Ramaphosa allocate powers to the new minister as a matter of urgency, Mbalula said.
The ANC’s handling of the power crisis is likely to impact its performance in elections scheduled for next year. The extreme power cuts have caused Ramaphosa’s approval rating to plunge in recent months, a Social Research Foundation poll published this week showed.
The NEC may also receive a report from its ethics committee on Ramaphosa’s handling of a theft at a game farm he owns, Mbalula said.
The president considered resigning in December after an advisory panel found he may have breached the constitution over his handling of the burglary, in which at least $580,000 of cash stashed in sofas at his Phala Phala game farm was stolen — a finding that parliament rejected.