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‘Add those megawatts’ — Ramaphosa backs Karpowership and slowing down coal power plant decommissioning

‘Add those megawatts’ — Ramaphosa backs Karpowership and slowing down coal power plant decommissioning
President Cyril Ramaphosa replies to questions in the National Assembly, 11 May 2023. (Photo: GCIS)

President Cyril Ramaphosa has signalled his support for the controversial Karpowership emergency power deal, saying that was ‘the way to go right now to add those megawatts’. He was speaking at his parliamentary question session on Thursday.

The 1,220MW emergency procurement from Karpowership has been stalled for the past three years by legal action, tender irregularities and appeals by activists over environmental approvals.

Read more in Daily Maverick: ‘Misleading’ claims and Transnet fear over harbour space derail Karpowership plans for now 

The Turkish company, which runs powerships off Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone, Senegal, Ghana and elsewhere, clinched a 20-year deal following the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy’s December 2019 call for 2,000MW of emergency power.

On Thursday, President Cyril Ramaphosa touted powerships – without expressly naming Karpowership – as a solution to South Africa’s rolling power cuts that leave homes and businesses without electricity for up to 10 hours a day.

“I still say today what South Africa needs right now is emergency energy… Other countries have done so. And I have been to a few countries on our continent, they have done so. They have brought in ships that are able to generate energy and immediately solved their energy problems and challenges.

“And I do believe that that is the way to go right now, to add those megawatts that we don’t have…”

Ramaphosa seemed to blame non-government organisations and others, such as activists who successfully lodged environmental appeals. 

In April 2022, lobby group Outa took legal action against the National Energy Regulator of South Africa for granting three licences it argued were not in South Africa’s interest.

“It (emergency power) has been stopped by interventions that are completely out of government’s hands. Stopped by either various non-governmental organisations, which have taken the process to court… environmental issues have been raised… and that has put the brakes on immediate emergency power that could have been brought to bear…”

Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe’s support for Karpowership is on public record as recently as April, according to News24.

Coal-fired power stations

With Ramaphosa and Mantashe on the same page, the President also paid tribute to the “good diagnostics” done by his Electricity Minister in the Presidency, Kgosientsho Ramokgopa.

Following the minister’s visits to 14 coal-fired power stations, these “good diagnostics” included easing the pace of decommissioning ageing power plants. This would delay finalising arrangements for the $8.5-billion made available by the UK, US, Germany, France and the European Union for South Africa’s just energy transition (JET), or minimising the impact on vulnerable workers and communities through, for example, retraining while moving to clean energy.

On Thursday, Ramaphosa asserted that no one would tell South Africa what to do and how to do it.

“In the end, the JET has to take into account our own situation and we have got to secure our energy security. What they do in Europe is their business… We look at ourselves. We are a sovereign nation; we must look after our own interests.”

Coincidentally, Ramokgopa has done his ministerial work – from visits to diagnostics and discussions with JET funders – without any officially delegated powers. That, Ramaphosa said on Thursday, would happen “very shortly”.

Lady R bombshell

A dig at DA leader John Steenhuisen over a lack of patriotism was as good as it got as Ramaphosa sidestepped questions on whether South Africa had loaded arms and ammunition on to the sanctioned Russian vessel Lady R in Simon’s Town in December 2022: “The matter is being investigated,” said Ramaphosa, refusing to answer Steenhuisen’s second-bite question.

It was an uninspired President in a mundane Q&A session. Still, ANC MPs found something to applaud in just about every presidential reply, welcomed as “comprehensive”, “detailed”, “educative” and “most informed” by governing party parliamentarians.

De Ruyter probe fallout

But insight into how the ANC views governance and accountability emerged in Ramaphosa’s answers regarding what he had done to find out who in his Cabinet was benefiting from cartel corruption at Eskom.

Comments from André de Ruyter, the state power utility’s ex-CEO, implicating high-level ANC politicians – and the privately funded, intelligence-driven investigations into sabotage and corruption – continued to play out this week.

Read more in Daily Maverick: It’s politics, stupid — Eskom board, executives and Scopa knock heads over who knew what about private corruption probe

Ramaphosa claimed “over 5,000 dockets” are dealing with malfeasance at Eskom. 

On Tuesday, the SA Police Service told MPs of 1,660 general and 150 specific corruption cases under investigation, while the Hawks cited 60 investigations, in addition to the 27 in court – 12 pending for a prosecution decision.

On Wednesday, Eskom board chairperson Mpho Makwana claimed “over 2,000” dockets to Parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts.

It remains unclear exactly which of those numbers is true. But such flinging about of numbers to claim success has become standard governance praxis. However, quantity does not necessarily mean quality.

As for the habit of denying something exists unless it has been directly and specifically brought to someone’s attention – this attitude has allowed ministers and officials, but also lawmakers, to ignore prickly matters like State Capture… at least until the #GuptaLeaks media revelations raised a public outcry.

On who might the “high-level politician” De Ruyter referred to be, Ramaphosa said, “I have not been presented with members of Cabinet or others involved in corruption at Eskom…”

Anyone with “credible information” should report this; nothing could be done without reports as it was otherwise all rumours and innuendo.

“If there is full information – incidents, names, occurrences and all that – that should all be put forward. Once it is put forward, I am absolutely convinced those matters will be investigated,” said Ramaphosa.

But such insistence on formal reporting, linked to quibbling whether the required detail is met, is how the governing ANC has become accustomed to sidestepping political accountability. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Joe Irwin says:

    The amount of side stepping on parliaments Q&A field the president does, makes soccer players like Ronaldo and Messi look like amateurs.

    • Antonio Tonin says:

      Cyril, may I be so rude as to say that one thing you quite definitely know NOTHING about is adding megawatts to SA’s electricity grid?

  • Niki Moore says:

    It has become clear that the collapse of Eskom has been deliberate, so that Mantashe can deliver his Karpowerships deal. We need to start looking closely at what benefits were promised to him. However, we also need to make the choice – are we prepared to resist a long-term, ruinously-expensive contract to keep the lights on, or do we dig in, accept the pain, and insist on good governance? It is a difficult choice.

    • Thinker and Doer says:

      Indeed, this does seem to be the plan, that we are presented with a fait accomplit that we need to accept the karpowerships and the continuation of the coal fired plants. It has been obvious from the beginning that the karpowerships deal is corrupt to the core, so there must be benefit to the party from the deal. The push to keep the coal plants operating is also intended to keep the coal cartels in Mpumalanga operating. The President is echoing the utterances of Minister Mantashe, and the insinuations that the NGOs are causing delays to solving the crisis are offensive. The government cannot comply with it’s own legislation, the public are entitled to ensure that the legislation is adhered to, and they are entitled to ensure that environmental requirements are adhered to and that projects authorized are not corrupt. It is the incompetence and maladministration of the government that has created the crisis, not the NGOs. You very correctly point out the difficult choices to be made given this situation that the government has engineered.

      • Eulalie Spamer says:

        You are spot on! Mantashe has the country by the proverbials: He tells us: “You want power?We will get it. Our way. Now shut up.”

  • Sam Shu says:

    And here we have the real end game of the rolling blackouts. More kickbacks for buddies which is so tricky with a more distributed renewable energy scenario

  • Jane Crankshaw says:

    CR and the ANC will embrace any ridiculous idea that comes with a back hander! Nothing changes and every action reduces South Africa further into a sh**hole African country status!

  • Patrick Devine says:

    Cadres are useless, incompetent, thieving ^%#+>#

  • PaulKay K says:


  • Mikeb1979 says:

    If the infrastructure can handle powers hips then it can handle wind and solar!

  • Soil Merchant says:

    _”a lack of patriotism”_ Over a question relating to a Russian ship docked in Simons Town to pick up weapons and ammunition?
    Pardon? – How, indeed, is this patriotic?

  • Beyond Fedup says:

    My thoughts exactly! This is a deliberate and calculated move by the wicked, treasonous and hideous anc to take SA to the very edge and then, lo and behold, the saviour in shining armour (Kapowerships) arrive to deliver us from grid failure catastrophe. Vested interests, kickbacks, anc funding etc will take place in a feeding frenzy on an unprecedented scale which will make the state capture and the arms deal look like a picnic. We are dealing with a highly corrupt, arrogant and predatory criminal syndicate that only looks after its own at the expense of and to the detriment of just about every SA citizen.

  • Sydney Kaye says:

    ” Ramaphosa seemed to blame non-government organisations and others, such as activists who successfully lodged environmental appeals.”. Will he isn’t wrong is he? . Environmental issues are important but then again there is a hierarchy of importance. And not having enough power now to run industry and every aspect of life ranks higher than speculation on the future effects on coastal fishing. Obviously there is the suspicion of corruption but that’s an other story.

  • hohnecl says:

    No objection to using the ship, but not for a period of 20 years. 5 years is reasoable. This will give Eskom time to do all repairs needed to get them back on track. Unfortunately the major obsticle is government.

  • Johan Buys says:

    Free suggestion for the president : you can buy and install three larger land-based gas power stations for a fraction of the price of the availability fees these ships will cost. In Lebanon and Pakistan the availability fees for three years exceeded the cost of buying that gas generation capacity.

    We also now have onland gas in the Free State to run the gas power stations.

    You can also buy and install these in far less time the ships will take because there WILL be further court challenges.

    Free advice to Karpowerships : have a look at what happened to the other corrupt deals that were set aside and the billions those companies repaid the taxpayer. Then think about coming here.

  • Rikus Mouton says:

    The Karpowership deals will only, at the very best, stave off one stage of loadshedding. That is hardly worth the environmental impact and long-term financial burden on the country, with no permanent energy generation infrastructure left at the end of the 20 years contract.
    It’s not close to enough to rectify the energy shortages we have in SA right now.

  • Geoff Woodruff says:

    Gwede must be delighted, his retirement package is secured.

  • Lisbeth Scalabrini says:

    Suddenly after several years and just as many environmental authorizations denied ( how many times can you present a project for an authorization, which has been denied at least a couple of times or three?), the President pulls the subject out of his hat. How come and why has the length of the contract never been discussed? It’s a multi-billion rand project. Could it be that bribes have been paid or promised long ago, so the deal MUST go through?
    The President has all the signs of being an A.I., a robot that someone is steering from afar. The high failure rate is caused by poor observation and directing.🤣

  • Trenton Carr says:

    Typical, show me the proof or it didn’t happen,

  • William Kelly says:

    How does a 20 year deal sound like ’emergency’ procurement?

  • rajenpadayachi19 says:

    Isn’t it strange to appoint an inquiry regarding the alleged transfer of munitions in Dec 2022 to a Russian military ship that was docked in Cape Town. Won’t the Minister of Defense know if this alleged military hardware via Denel was conveyed to the Russians to assist them in their onslaught against the Ukrainians.! Won’t the Minister of Transport have knowledge of the alleged CARGO loaded onto a foreign military vessel! The Dept of International Relations should have a record of similar alleged transactions. These Ministers managing these “key points” should be answerable to these alleged clandestine export activities!

  • Anthony Burman says:

    How did an architect of Codesa become a fount of equivocation?

  • Peter Atkins says:

    One of the obvious objections to the Karpowership option, is the 20 year power purchase agreement that that we will be locked into. Floating gas turbines are meant to be TEMPORARY, they don’t involve expensive fixed infrastructure like a land/based power station does. So make the agreement for 5 years with options to cancel or renew as required.

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