ANC POLICY CONFERENCE
KwaZulu-Natal touts ‘coal fundamentalist’ Mantashe as the solution to SA’s energy crisis
The state of power utility Eskom was in the spotlight at the ANC’s Policy Conference over the weekend as delegates discussed whether the company should be moved to the Minerals and Energy Department. KwaZulu-Natal was one of the provinces that advocated this move and slammed Eskom Chief Executive André de Ruyter as they believe he does not have the requisite skills to steer the state entity in the right direction.
Discussions around removing Eskom from the Public Enterprises department has in the last few weeks become a hot topic in the governing party. The so-called “coal fundamentalists” have backed the decision while those in favour of a more mixed approach, which will include the use of renewable energy to alleviate pressure on the grid, believe the company is still good in the hands of Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan.
ANC KwaZulu-Natal secretary Bheki Mtolo says Minister of Minerals and Energy Gwede Mantashe has the bravado and experience to whip Eskom back into shape.
Mtolo was speaking on the sidelines of the ANC Policy Conference held over the weekend of 27 to 31 July 2022 at Nasrec, Johannesburg:
“Eskom belongs to the department of energy and mineral resources because it is a big generator of energy in the country, it is lost where it is. It would be a good thing if it is given to minister Mantashe because he is also an official in the ANC sitting in the top six, he has got authority. He will not be bullied by anyone, he will take decisions. We support that it should be put in the department of energy because it goes to a man that is unapologetic.”
Read more in Daily Maverick: “Eskom says illegal protests double South Africa’s power outages”
Mtolo said the province was pushing for Eskom to continue using coal, stressing that the move towards renewable energy sources would result in major job losses in Mpumalanga – home to South Africa’s major coal-fired power stations. The province produces about 80% of the country’s coal.
“He [Mantashe] has made it clear that he is a coal fundamentalist which we believe in as KwaZulu-Natal because you cannot do away with coal. I can tell you now that Mpumalanga would be a ghost province, unemployment will move up to 80% percent.
“I think that people who are supporting independent power producers (IPPs) and renewables are pushing nothing else but their self interest. Big economies in Europe are moving away from IPPs and renewables and they are moving back to coal. Electricity is not only about economic issues, it is about security issues as well. You cannot allow electricity to be controlled by the private sector,” he said.
Read more in Daily Maverick: “Ramaphosa seeks solutions to power crisis outside of Eskom following backlash against the party over rolling blackouts“
Mtolo questioned the leadership at Eskom, in particular that of Chief Executive André de Ruyter, who he feels does not have the expertise to run the power utility.
“The CEO of Eskom André de Ruyter knows nothing about Eskom, they speak far above his head. The guy cannot solve X. He has not done anything good, he cannot supervise them because he does not know what they do because he is not trained as an engineer,” he said.
On the other hand the party’s Northern Cape structures do not believe that it is necessary to remove Eskom from its current department. Provincial chair Zamani Saul explained that their main concern was ensuring that the leadership of the utility follows good governance practices.
“We have a very simple stance around Eskom, the fact that the government has to strengthen the capacity of Eskom – in particular generation capacity so that the country is not subjected to these blackouts. We had discussions about the appropriate location of Eskom, which is the same argument around Transnet. For me, it is not an issue of location, but it is an issue of good corporate governance. What Eskom is suffering now is a result of state capture, whether it was under energy or public enterprises, the state capture agenda would have continued,” he said.
Eskom’s inability to supply electricity has been a big talking point for South Africans who have had to bear the brunt of rolling blackouts during the country’s coldest months. This has prompted the government to seek both long and short-term solutions to the energy crisis.
President Cyril Ramaphosa recently announced an action plan which he said would ensure that rolling blackouts become a thing of the past. The plan involves stabilising Eskom and improving plant performance, establishing a competitive electricity market, opening the way for private investment in new generation capacity and increasing investment in renewables.
He also suggested setting up another state-owned electricity utility – which is Mantashe’s brainchild – to compete with Eskom.
During the report-back of commissions on Saturday night 30 July, the ANC’s Economic Transformation head Mmamoloko Kubayi said the proposals suggested by the president were welcomed by conference delegates.
The conference concluded on Sunday, 31 July. DM