South Africa


Can Ramaphosa’s new Minister of Electricity, Kgosientsho Ramokgopa, turn around a country without power?

Can Ramaphosa’s new Minister of Electricity, Kgosientsho Ramokgopa, turn around a country without power?
Newly appointed Minister of Electricity Kgosientsho ‘Sputla’ Ramokgopa. (Photo: Gallo Images / Beeld / Thapelo Maphakela)

President Cyril Ramaphosa turns to a trusted aide, Kgosientsho ‘Sputla’ Ramokgopa, to get him out of the energy bind.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has chosen trusted aide Kgosientsho “Sputla” Ramokgopa, as his first Minister of Electricity. Ramokgopa now has Cabinet’s most demanding job: he must end rolling blackouts by overseeing the fix on Eskom and bringing new energy to the grid. 

Ramaphosa said on Monday night the transfer of constitutional powers to his new appointment was in hand. This means that some of the roles assigned to Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan and Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe are being reassigned. 

The job description of the new electricity minister makes it clear that Mantashe has lost substantial hold over energy planning and execution.  

“To effectively oversee the electricity crisis response, the appointed minister will have political responsibility, authority and control over all aspects of the Energy Action Plan,” Ramaphosa said

In addition, the minister will oversee the national state of disaster and “will be able to issue directions to exclude critical facilities from load shedding, expedite regulatory processes for energy projects and enable Eskom to undertake maintenance more quickly”.  

President Cyril Ramaphosa's new Cabinet announced on 6 March 2022

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Gordhan was expecting to oversee the appointment of a new Eskom CEO, but that role is now likely to fall to Ramokgopa. 

Ramokgopa has been in charge of infrastructure in the Presidency, and he has impressed players in the industry. He is one of the Cabinet’s most highly qualified people with three degrees, including a PhD in Public Affairs. Ramokgopa has been Tshwane’s mayor – where he did not cover himself in glory because of a botched and expensive prepaid meter deal – and was also a provincial MEC in Gauteng for a short time.  

According to his Wikipedia profile, he was also CEO of the Johannesburg Market (an essential part of the food chain) and won boss of the year in that role. 

The best boss has a massive task on his hands. As Ramaphosa spoke on Monday night, the flashing neon of Stage 5 power cuts glinted above his left shoulder during his televised address. 

The grid has been wildly gyrating all year long without a single day’s respite from rolling blackouts. 

South Africa suffered the worst power cuts on record in 2022, and 2023 looks like it could get even worse, unless Ramokgopa can oversee the stabilisation of Eskom; ensure the appointment of a capable CEO at the utility; and slice through massive ANC political interests in coal to get new forms of power onto the grid. 

The 48-year-old electricity minister is both a gentleman and a street fighter entirely used to the hard-balling politics of ANC factions and interests. He will still need Ramaphosa’s support, especially as he must wrestle with Mantashe and the calcified electricity regulator, Nersa, for better energy policy and execution. 

Mantashe is the ANC chairperson, making the new electricity minister his junior. The young minister will require deft diplomacy to meet his job description, which is to end rolling blackouts. 

Ramokgopa’s ANC stripes are from Tshwane, Gauteng, and he has been allied to the new Deputy President Paul Mashatile.  While the two are reported to have once fallen out, there are no permanent friends or enemies in politics. DM


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  • Derrick Kourie says:

    Ramokgopa’s “botched and expensive prepaid meter deal” in Tshwane entailed several billions of rands. Subsequent DA coalitions cancelled the deal and desperately struggled to counter the negative impact on the city’s finances. The full story of the “botched and expensive prepaid meter deal” needs to told. Was it merely a matter of incompetence, was it corruption or was it both?

  • D'Esprit Dan says:

    Good luck to him, he’s going to need it to overcome the entrenched interests of Gwede and Pravin, not to mention the mafias and cartels, and this is the crux of the matter: in order to overcome rolling blackouts, he has to tackle the criminality at Eskom head-on, or else there is no point to plans, and mechanisms and strategies and masterplans and interventions and every other kick-the-can-down-the-road policy the ANC traditionally comes up with.

    My biggest concern though, is that he’s been head of infrastructure planning in the Presidency for hte last few years and we have seen almost zero actual infrastructure delivery during that time – just the same projects repackaged and relaunched over and again with nary a shovel getting dirty in the process. Except for the dodgy Sanral deals that DM highlighted yesterday. We already have a national electricity crisis committee, a department of minerals and energy, one of public enterprises, now DTIC is in charge of ‘streamlining’ applications, NERSA is a law unto itself (correctly, technically, even if it has its own clouds hanging overhead), so where does the new minister fit in? How on earth will he be able to herd all these poisonous cats and overcome blackouts? I honestly hope my cynicism is proven wrong!

  • D'Esprit Dan says:

    It’s possible I’m being a little harsh on the lack of infrastructure delivery: Cyril did inspect a pothole that had been repaired last year.

  • Rory Macnamara says:

    What a shallow pool to draw from. everyone of the cabinet have some sort of poor showing they are linked to. It cannot be ignored that NDZ is still around why we can ask?
    oh well have to work with what you have Mr President – such a shame. if you were able to go beyond the inexperienced and incompetent that the anc offers instead of the immense talent of South Africans that abound not anc what a difference that would make!

  • Cedric de Beer says:

    In government, if your job is to co-ordinate the work of others, you are doomed to fail – especially if the others are PG and Gwede. You don’t control what you need to control and you continually have to go through those with records, interests and empires to defend. Ask Jay Naidoo what it was like getting other government departments to implement the RDP, when the ANC was still newly and enthusiastically in office.

    It is the job of the president to make sure government works – not to appoint additional layers of confusing lines of authority to do what he won’t do. The leader should lead.

  • Peter Holmes says:

    The article’s headline is irrelevant and misleading. You cannot turn around something that is terminally ill (Eskom). Cyril can appoint ten ministers of electricity, and it will not make a jot of difference. The ANC is simply incapable of actually acting on the “decisions” which are taken at cabinet and ministerial level.

  • Pamela Oberem says:

    Given Sputla’s engineering bungle while he was Tshwane mayor which caused sewage contamination of the Apies river, and led to loss of agricultural livelihoods, fouling of boreholes and falling of property prices for those downstream, he doesn’t seem to be the right man. His arrogance on being confronted by residents still rankles; while we are still dealing with the stench, damage to the ecosystem and drinking water problems in Hammanskraal he will be living the high life.

  • Johan Buys says:

    Here is a free tip:

    One of the issues with more IPP is transmission grid. We are not using what is in place to an IPP efficiently.

    So if solar IPP has 100MW contract it supplies between 0 and 100 for parts of the day.

    Go back to the IPP and get them to add 200% solar generation plus a VERY big battery so that the IPP can do stable 100MW most of the day or especially do 100MW during peak hours. Solar plus storage would cost less than R2/kWh (or a quarter of diesel), it can be done very fast, and we’d take out four stages of loadshedding and billions of liters of diesel.

    No change to the transmission interface as the IPP would only supply over its fence 100MW and everything is already in place for that. Basically turn all the 500MWh per day IPP into 1.5GWh per day IPP with peak period dispatch capability.

    No, I suspect nobody listens to advice but maybe…

  • James Francis says:

    But for all his qualifications, can he choose the country over party? I don’t think the ANC’s culture and mentality will allow that, which is effectively the reason why we are still in this mess and unable to get out of it.

  • Gregory Heale says:

    Doesn’t the country desperately need a party (or coalition) to stand up for the economic powerhouse of the world – a free market economy. A party who clearly says its the private sector that drives the economy and the governments role is to support and enable business to thrive. The government gets some 30% of all business profits and a huge % of every citizens earnings and expenditures. It’s a no-brainer that govt should be doing EVERTHING it can to make business and wage earners more successful. And yet no party is unequivocally standing up for business and the free market. All seem to be competing for the socialist vote instead of defending capitalism and the power of the free market. We’ve tried pandering to socialism, trade unions and listened to the SACP voices all baying for wealth redistribution instead of wealth creation. Look at where we are. We can all see it hasn’t worked. We don’t have to reinvent anything – we just desperately need a strong party to stand up for the private sector, free markets and recognize the role of business to produce wealth and govts role to enable it to do so. Somebody stand up and be counted. Please. We’ll have a 90% turnout at the polls in 2024

  • Lisbeth Scalabrini says:

    I wonder if there is any other country with 32 cabinet members🙄

  • Tony B says:

    The answer to the header of this article is NO. It’s not physically (as in physics) possible to upgrade the power grid and generate more electricity in the short term (3-5 years). Assuming that all goes smoothly and the new minister is able to stop what has been exposed by De Ruyter and the Zondo Commission.

  • Terry Pearse says:

    Certainly not the USA, which has an economy at least 50x larger than South Africa’s. However, to destroy a country might need 32, plus the help of 30 Deputy Ministers.

  • Andrew McWalter says:

    Like all other failed attempts at leading SOE’s, tribal issues will likewise dog the effectiveness of this appointment. The only solution is to send the ANC back to its pound and give the honest part of the population an opportunity to allow the many honest and capable leaders to emerge.

  • Jane Crankshaw says:

    We all know what is wrong with this country – thanks to the DA and various brave “whistleblowers” the rot has been fully exposed. What we don’t know is how to go about fixing it! It will take brave men (and women) to fight the fight for Justice, Honesty, Dignity and all those wonderfully positive words used by Mandela so eloquently! It can be done, and having reached the bottom of the barrel there is nowhere else to go but up!

  • Johann van Breda says:

    Sputla gaan net spoed vang en nog lekkerder help met die skep vir die ANC. He was useless as Tshwane mayor, has had no impact except taking more money from taxpayers while in the presidency and now in time honored fashion he will get a chance to feed at Eskom.

  • Francois Smith says:

    What a sad sod! If Ramokgopa delivers the cure to Eskom, the ANC will barely scratch 50% and Mashatile will be his boss in 2029, if not sooner. If he botches the job, the ANC will get probably less than 45% in 2024 and then his boss will be either Malema as head of government business, if he is lucky, or Steenhuizen, if we are lucky.

  • Michael Bellis says:

    Johan Buys must have known something because this morning DMRE announced a request for bids for 523 MW of battery storage, at long last, which had ministerial approval and was gazetted 25 Sept. 2020. The bid announcement has been shelved for the past 30 months. Is is possible that Karpowership was deemed to offer a more lucrative rent seeking opportunity?

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