South Africa

Mantashe says he is not to blame for blackouts

Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan in Johannesburg, South Africa 19 Marh 2019. Photo: Felix Dlangamandla/ Netwerk24/Gallo / Deputy President of South Africa David Mabuza, 27 August 2018 (Photo by Gallo Images / Netwerk 24/ Deaan Vivier) / African National Congress secretary-general Gwede Mantashe at the NASREC Convention Centre, Johannesburg , South Africa, 16 December 2017. EPA-EFE/CORNELL TUKIRI

Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe says South Africans should not blame him for Eskom's woes, pointing out that the power utility is actually part of Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan's area of responsibility.

The minister, who faced widespread criticism this week, was speaking on the sidelines of the South African Communist Party’s (SACP) special national congress in Kempton Park on Tuesday.

Deputy President David Mabuza, who also attended the congress, apologised to the country for the “inconvenience” caused by rolling blackouts, known widely as load shedding.

“To accuse me of Stage 6, when Eskom is in another ministry, that in itself is just opportunist[ic]. I am not the minister responsible for Eskom. I must be allowed to do my work within my responsibility, complement the work that is done in [the] public enterprise [portfolio].

“I have a responsibility and duty to respect Gordhan in the space that has been allocated to him and not be a disrupter of that space. I will resist anybody who pushes me to be a disrupter of that space. Though Eskom is a source of energy, it is allocated in public enterprise and there is a minister responsible [in that portfolio],” he said.

But Mantashe’s department is aware that it has a part to play in fixing the power crisis.

On Tuesday, the minerals and energy department released a statement on short- to medium-term interventions to meet energy demands. These include allowing independent power producers to come on stream earlier and initiating a drive for the use of more liquified petroleum gas, Fin24 reported.

The government has been working overtime to deal with the fallout after the power utility briefly escalated load shedding to Stage 6 on Monday evening, leaving many South Africans frustrated and concerned about the impact on the economy.

In an interview with eNCA, Gordhan refused to call Stage 6 a “major crisis”, saying the power crunch was manageable. On the same day, when speaking to journalists, the minister described his input as “ideas” and “suggestions” to help offload pressure on the grid.

“We are suggesting that if we want to help Eskom, we must have other interventions outside of Eskom. If we develop LPG, the bottled gas, it will take a big load out of Eskom if the middle class consume that product. If we generate energy from gas outside of Eskom, it will take a lot of load out of Eskom. We are not saying we are doing it today, we are throwing [around] these ideas to say in the long term, we must have interventions, short-term and medium-term,” he added.

Following Monday’s shift to Stage 6, Gordhan said his department would meet with the energy department to discuss the best way to secure 4 000MW of spare capacity to add to the system.




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