Our Burning Planet

AFRICA ENERGY INDABA

Mantashe warns against ‘encirclement’ by developed countries, chides environmental activists

Mantashe warns against ‘encirclement’ by developed countries, chides environmental activists
Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe. (Photo: Dwayne Senior / Bloomberg via Getty Images)

While a group of activists stood below him, placards about coal corruption and unblocking renewable energy held aloft in their hands, Minister Gwede Mantashe cautioned against ‘encirclement’ by developed economies and sought to cast his tenure as one marked by great development in the space of renewable energy.

The voice that says that energy production in Africa must be aligned with Africa’s socioeconomic development is the voice that needs to be heard, said the minister of mineral resources and energy, Gwede Mantashe. 

He was delivering a keynote speech at the Africa Energy Indaba at the Cape Town International Convention Centre.  

Mantashe stuck to his usual rhetorical repertoire of denouncing countries who view Africa as a “conduit”’ for the ideas of “the West”, embracing the label of “coal fundamentalist” and saying that a move away from coal would kill 10 towns in Mpumalanga. 

In a seemingly tailored message, Mantashe several times urged African countries and their leaders to be cautious of “encirclement” by developed countries who are trying to dictate the pace of the energy transition. He also made use of the occasion to respond to criticism levelled against him and his policy positions by environmental activists.   

“There must be a balance between energy demand, socioeconomic development and energy supplies that is premised on low carbon emissions. As we intend to move to low carbon emission energy we must also, at the same time, address energy poverty,” he said before turning his gaze to a group of Greenpeace Africa activists standing below his podium.   

One held a sign that said: “Coal = Corruption” while another said: “Coal = loadshedding”. Yet another activist turned and faced the minister with a large yellow sign that said “Gwede stop blocking renewables.”

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“You know, sometimes you want to respond to some of these things. Because people will say things they do not know. I will talk to them,” said Mantashe. 

“I like the term ‘encirclement’ because Africa’s people speak on behalf of them. And I think this is no different,” the minister said gesturing with two open hands to the activists who held the signs metres away from him. 

“It is this group who speaks on behalf of Africans and Africans are encircled, they must be conduits of their ideas. We don’t think we should allow that, this is what the delegates of this indaba must be occupied with.”  

Mantashe continued: “Energy poverty is one central dilemma that we must collectively resolve, as it impedes Africa’s economic growth, resulting in poverty and inequality. This includes lack of access to electricity, unaffordability of energy and in our case, electricity interruptions: load shedding.”  


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Referencing the activists again, he said: “You know, the Gwede who blocks renewables, has done [a] few things. We’ve released Bid Window 5, Bid Window 6, we’re going to release Bid Window 7… we’ve removed any ceiling on embedded generation… and that is blocking renewables because renewable is everything that came from heaven to save us,” he said sarcastically. 

“And I can tell you that [renewable energy] is not going to save us because it has limitations. It doesn’t have base load. It depends on partnering with other technologies to provide a sustainable and secure energy supply and security. So if we understand that, we’ll know that actually coal is going to be with us for a long time.”  

Addressing a protester whose sign read “coal = corruption”, Mantashe read out the sign and went on to say, “Coal corruption, it’s fine. And corruption is everywhere, including in renewables, I can tell you that.” 

However, Thandile Chinyavanhu, Greenpeace Africa’s climate and energy campaigner, in a statement shared a different perspective of the minister’s tenure and positions. 

“Fast-tracking a shift to renewable energy is clearly the solution, but the biggest blocker in the way of getting us out of the oppressive darkness of the electricity crisis is standing at the podium today. Minister Mantashe is too biased to see the real solutions, and his fossil fuel obsession is literally bringing South Africa to its knees and cannot remain unchallenged. Enough is enough,” she said.   

She continued: “The minister is ultimately to blame for load shedding, because he is actively blocking new renewable energy projects and not a single MW of electricity has been connected to the grid during his tenure. Minister Mantashe has either dodged accountability entirely, made vicious public comments about environmental activists, or declared that the fossil fuel industry is under attack, despite the industry announcing record billions in profits in 2022.  

“Minister Mantashe together with the fossil fuel industry are colluding to force South Africans down a devastating and depressing pathway to spiralling rolling blackouts, a jobless economy, catastrophic climate change and continued toxic air pollution. South Africans deserve so much better than this. A just transition to renewable energy is the best and most immediate solution to South Africa’s energy and unemployment crises,” ended Chinyavanhu. DM/OBP

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Marius Kuhn says:

    Apophenia is treatable Minister .Please seek help for your own and our good.

  • Chris 123 says:

    Only ANC enrichment is acceptable.

  • Lothar Böttcher says:

    What if the ‘debate’ changes from coal vs. renewable to centralised vs. decentralised transmission? Irrespective of ideologies (dinosaurs vs. future), the crux lies in getting the energy to where it is needed.
    Who runs the transmission of energy will be the kingpin, much like the taxi industry running public transport…
    Its politics/economics of monopoly!

  • Brian Cotter says:

    To develop further – Apophenia, or patternicity, is characterized by seeing patterns in unrelated things. Anyone can experience this, but if you live with schizophrenia, it may be part of a delusion.

  • Thinker and Doer says:

    The statement that,”(C)coal corruption, is fine. Corruption is everywhere,” highlights the ANC’s attitude towards the criminality in relation to Eskom. The real reason they are so vehemently opposed to ramping up renewables, is because it will disrupt the existing criminal syndicates, and the ANC and their cronies have not figured out how to get control of the renewables sector, because it is so decentralized. This active hostility towards renewables and substantial delay in allowing them to be brought into the system has substantially worsened the electricity crisis.

  • Carsten Rasch says:

    Good for Chinyavanhu and shame, as usual, on Mantashe, the elephant, or rather, the dinosaur in the room whose shameless arrogance is matched only by his astounding ignorance. Unfortunately they do not cancel each other – or Mantashe himself – out, no matter how much we hope for that. By the way, does anyone know how he became the Energy minister? Was it by his request?

  • Rory Short says:

    Energy is the basis of creation. It is the foundation of life starting from the first living organisms. Initially this energy came only from the sun but humans started using more energy than that by utilising fossil fuels, like coal and oil, transforming the fossil fuels into more directly accessible forms of energy like electricity. The trouble is our use of fossil fuels is damaging the natural environment on which we depend for our existence. We need to resolve to exchange fossil fuels for renewables as fast as we can. Gwede does not recognise this it seems.

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