Our Burning Planet


Mantashe on exec exodus from Eskom, Transnet – ‘like mice running from methane in a mine’

Mantashe on exec exodus from Eskom, Transnet – ‘like mice running from methane in a mine’
An Extinction Bebellion protest outside the Africa Oil Week conference in Cape Town on Tuesday. (Photo: Ethan van Diemen)

Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy Gwede Mantashe offered this line to describe the alleged friction between Eskom executives and Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan.

In a media briefing on the sidelines of the Africa Oil Week conference in Cape Town on Tuesday, Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy Gwede Mantashe – with a wink and a nod – said something is very wrong in the Department of Public Enterprises, but he was hesitant to say exactly what.

He shared his concerns after being asked for his take on the news that Mpho Makwana, now the outgoing Eskom chairperson, resigned on Monday.

Daily Maverick reported that Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan announced Makwana’s resignation on Monday. This publication understands that the relationship between Gordhan and Makwana had broken down over the selection process for a new CEO to replace André de Ruyter. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: Eskom news

Makwana, who was at the conference on Tuesday, told this reporter that he had no more to add regarding his resignation and that “the statement released yesterday is the statement”.

Asked about the resignation and the alleged friction between Gordhan and executives at Eskom, Mantashe said: “Can I give you an analogy?” 

“As a miner – that is my background – if you’re underground and you see mice running, you don’t go and look and see where, what is it that they see. You just follow them,” he said. 


Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy Gwede Mantashe answers questions on the sidelines of the Africa Oil Week conference in Cape Town on Tuesday. (Photo: Ethan van Diemen)

“Because when they run, half the time they’re smelling methane and then if you want to save yourself, just follow them. So then, when there is an exodus of executives in institutions, there should be a kind of methane that we should investigate. That is what we should understand. 

“A number of executives [are] just running like mice, running from methane in a very short space of time. Chairperson of Eskom, three black executives in Transnet and all those things. What is the methane that they’re running away from? I will not know that, I’m not in that space.” 

Daily Maverick has reported that Transnet CEO Portia Derby resigned at the end of September after three years at the helm of the state-owned transport company. The company’s CFO, Nonkululeko Dlamini, also resigned. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: After the Bell: How a loss of confidence in Transnet CEO Portia Derby saw her run out of track

In recent months, Derby had come under intense criticism from the mining industry for failing to fix Transnet’s rail network and ports. Minerals Council South Africa, which represents 80% of the mining industry, has been vocal in calling for Derby and Transnet Freight Rail CEO Sizakele Mzimela to be replaced.


Extinction Rebellion staged a protest outside Tuesday’s Africa Oil Week conference in Cape Town. (Photo: Ethan van Diemen)

The Transnet board was due to issue a report on the performance of the two executives after Gordhan directed them to assess their suitability for the posts. In addition to the most recent loss of Makwana, Derby’s resignation left two vacancies at critical SOEs – Transnet and Eskom – which Gordhan is tasked with filling, and has yet to do so.

Asked for more details about the source of this “methane”, Mantashe said that “in DMRE we are accused of giving space to people who were fired somewhere else to contribute. There is no methane there. It is in other portfolios that there is this methane.” DM

Absa OBP

Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Middle aged Mike says:

    The odious little man’s utterances are not worth the effort of recording much less publishing. His performance with respect to the mining and energy portfolios deserve the column inches.

  • Fernando Moreira says:

    Forget about the ANC

    Vote DA

  • Allan Taylor says:

    Mantashe said “As a miner – that is my background…” According to Wikipaedia, he only worked on the surface, never underground – “For 13 years, Mantashe worked above-ground in mining”.

    Miners know that Methane is tasteless, odourless and colourless – neither mice nor canaries can detect it.

    I don’t think Mantashe knows much about anything other than breaking the SA economy.

    • Middle aged Mike says:

      “I don’t think Mantashe knows much about anything other than breaking the SA economy.”

      Unfair! You obviously don’t remember when he broke the news of the discovery in the NC of “hazenile” deposits at a Mining Conference in Australia in 2019.

      Hazenile was so important that the site where his speech writing team first came across it described its discovery as “more important than the discovery of unobtainium”. Near the bottom of the page they also said “This was an APRIL FOOL’s joke. We hope you had a laugh along with us…”

      Imagine being there and having to try and pretend that you weren’t in the presence of mouth breathing imbecile in an expensive suit.

    • Con Tester says:

      Exactly! Thanks for pointing out the facts about CH₄. The only way to detect it is with a methanometer or a Wolf flame safety lamp. Its chief danger is that it is explosive when mixed in air in the volumetric ratio of between about 4% and 15%. Inhaling it isn’t dangerous per se, and long before it reaches concentrations in an underground working area where the oxygen level falls below 16% (i.e., when people start noticing increased breathing rates), an explosion would almost certainly have occurred. Canaries were used to detect CO₂ and CO, both also colourless, tasteless, and odourless.

      That apart, rats are far more prevalent underground than mice in SA’s deep-level mines. Typically, they arrive with the timber that is used primarily for support. And they start bolting shortly before there’s a significant seismic event, such as a rockburst or a fault slip event. They don’t run because of gases, except perhaps for H₂S but that gas doesn’t suddenly appear; it forms slowly in stagnant pools of water.

      In short, Manatshe doesn’t even know that he knows nothing about what he’s talking about.

  • robertbreyer says:

    Comrade Gwede, the exodus is entirely on you and Comrade Pravin.
    André de Ruyter made that clear. Who would possibly want either of you as a boss? When the going got tough, you stabbed de Ruyter in the back, pure and simple.
    Google “ostrich in the sand”. Or the assassination of Julius Caesar. At least Brutus was man enough to look Caesar in the face and stab him in the groin.

  • Nick Griffon says:

    Let’s forget what this buffoon had to say. He is the root cause of all SA energy problems.
    Where is Cyril in this picture? His 2 ministers are openly taking shots at each other and as usual, he sits on the sideline paralysed and “shocked” Shem ne.

    • Jimbo Smith says:

      Cyril NEVER, EVER grasped the basics of Leadership 101. He has no backbone and simply sits on his hands; talks a lot, denies, blames, promises and then….repeats ad nauseum!! He has no grasp of the key steps to be taken viz bold, decisive action to remove obvious, underperforming Ministers ( which means most of them.) But ain’t gonna happen; they all have so much dirt on each other!!

  • James Francis says:

    The Minister is just hangry. He can’t eat a little anymore. Someone get him a taxpayer funded snack, please.

  • jcdville stormers says:

    Mantashe “Oswald Cobblepot Penguin”is such a bore

  • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

    Well I’m hoping the methane is accountability.

  • Jimbo Smith says:

    Good old Gwede; torturing truth and logic as only he can! He should find one of his ludicrous “descriptors” to describe how he and his Ministry have reduced the SA Mining Industry to a pathetic shadow of what it once was. Of course he won’t; he has never quite grasped what the levers of an economy are and he probably hasn’t noticed that SA does not have ONE of the global miners invested here. So easy solution; Gwede does what he does best and that is turn the torch elsewhere. How long has he been in Cabinet? A long, long time and his impact on our economy is tragic!

  • Kenneth Arundel says:

    Not mice. Rats jumping ship? May be a better analogy.

  • Jack Russell says:

    Methane Mantashe, product of the ANC Chemical Works?

  • Rob Wilson says:

    He is displaying his lack of mining knowledge. They are rats, not mice, and miners believe their rapid departure is indicative of a rock burst about to happen, not the arrival of methane gas. He has hold of the wrong canary. Where he is right, is if they depart, you depart as well. A huge fall coming.

  • Albert Smith says:

    Another absolute humdinger from one of the biggest culprits for the state of our country. Mantashe will use any opportunity now to appeal to his constituency in the hope that somehow the ANC will still get enough votes to continue milking the state dry for another 5 years

  • Vas K says:

    Up to now we’ve had “only’ criminals, idiots and incompetents in the government, Now we can add lunatics.

  • Hulme Scholes says:

    Mantashe is as stupid as he is obese. He is a huge part of the problem in this country. He animates his own stupidity with his mice “smelling” methane analogy. Methane is odourless, colourless and tasteless. The ANC is exactly the opposite, it stinks, is obsessed with colour to disguise its own failings and criminality and has a taste for only looting and plunder of taxpayers money.

  • Senzo Moyakhe says:

    Has anybody taken note of Greedy Mantashe’s screaming and shouting about NGO funding? The effective lawsuits against many of his ‘pension projects’ is a bit like a thorn in the butt and he’s getting very, very pissed off. What does the Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy have to do with NGOs?

    Yeah, something is giving him a proper pinch and he ain’t pleased…

  • Walter Spatula says:

    I’m guessing he’s trying to tell us the ANC is methane.

  • Verus Hurts says:

    Dissolute, Degenerate, Despicable and SINGULARLY Demented! His venal, self-serving and deliberate machinations to disposess the inhabitants of Xolobeni of their land will forever be etched in the annals of history. The most galling irony of his cognitive dissonance in that egregious act is that he hails from this province as well as ethnic group. So much for the oft uttered and severely hackneyed “ubuntu” and “our people” which underpin the empty rhetoric that is frequently spouted by “leaders” / members of the anc. A – amoral, N – nefarious, C – cabal.

    • Con Tester says:

      I prefer “Avaricious Narcissistic Cabal” for its succinct capture of that organisation’s depraved self-obsession.

      Still, we can at least agree on the “Cabal” bit.

      • Verus Hurts says:

        While we’re at it, consider Aberrant, Abominable as well Abysmal. Include Criminal, Corrupt. I was severely remiss in not adding Dimwitted in my introductory descriptor of the character. I’m open to correction – this individual apparently has attained an MBA not so long ago. If my assumption is in the affirmative it amply demonstrates that tertiary schooling accomplishments for many in this country are a futile pursuit.

  • Louise Louise says:

    Whatever Mantashe is, or isn’t, there is no such thing as “fossil fuel”. Oil is a renewable resource and is not created from fossils. I can’t post links here but here is an extract from a highly detailed report on the subject :

    “In the video above, Corsi explained that the biotic (fossil fuel) theory began by claiming that oil originated from dinosaur matter. Then its advocates moved on to claim that oil came from matter from ancient forests. “Once that theory began to be abandoned, people said: ‘Oh, it’s plankton and other deeper biological material’ … this whole idea there’s kerogen, which is a pre-oil gummy-like substance that is in sedimentary rock that’s forming the oil, is nonsense. It’s not the way chemistry works,” he said.

    The Nazis realised that under intense pressure and heat, conditions which are in the mantle of the Earth, minerals that contain hydrogen and minerals that contain carbon in the presence of catalysts, such as iron oxide, will release hydrogen and carbon. This will lead to the formation of hydrocarbon molecular chains that develop into the products we know as crude oil or natural gas.

    “This is an ongoing process. It goes on all the time. It’s natural to the earth. And, in fact, our solar system abundantly produces various forms of hydrocarbons,” he said.”

    The “Peak Oil” theory has also been proven to be wrong.

    “L. Fletcher Prouty: Oil is not a fossil fuel; it is the second most prevalent liquid on Earth”

    • Alan Cargill says:

      Wow, even if this nonsense was true, how fast do you think this process would work? Faster or slower than we use it? You have heard that oil and gas field become depleted, uneconomic and are ultimately abandoned?

      • Louise Louise says:

        Good morning Alan. Why did you automatically assume that my post was “nonsense”? There have been dire predictions over the past decades to scare us into believing that oil will run out but it has not happened. That’s the assertion with regard to “Peak Oil”. Just because some oil and gas fields become dry, doesn’t mean that other oil and gas fields are not discovered.

        To quote Prouty further :

        “There has never been a fossil, a real fossil, found below sixteen thousand feet … We drill for oil at thirty thousand, thirty three thousand, twenty eight thousand, every day of the week. So, right there we rule it out, that it isn’t fossil fuel. It’s called fossil fuel for the minds of the public to feel that it is an asset that is running out [and] being depleted.

        “If you know the world’s oil supply, you know that it is not going to run out for an awfully long time. It is the second most prevalent liquid on Earth.”

      • Rob Wilson says:

        I think it is more nonsense to believe that oil found 20,000ft underground is only the result of rotting vegetation. There is some credible work done by Gold that suggests that oil may be the result of a microbe eating away at a common element in the Earth’s core. The problem is that the process is very slow (much slower than we consume it), but if we can isolate it and get it to work faster (as in some extraction processes), we may get somewhere.

        • Con Tester says:

          Temperature at the Earth’s core = 4,400° C to 6,000° C.

          Highest melting point of *any* known material (tantalum hafnium carbide) = 3,942˚C, about 500° C shy of the minimum temperature of the Earth’s core.

          Draw your own conclusion from that regarding the likelihood of microbes operating there.

    • Johann Olivier says:

      Gwede? Is that you?

  • Joan McGuinness says:

    Rats leaving a sinking ship is more accurate, and the ship is sinking because of destructive outside influences. He needs some introspection

  • Jennifer D says:

    The fact that Mantashe finds this slightly amusing and seems to have no particular interest in establishing where the explosion might occur demonstrates how utterly useless he is.

  • hilton smith says:

    everytime he speaks he adds methane.

  • Dermot Quinn says:

    Very very sad that we are here. It never needed to be. Imagine the stress of running either Eskom or Transnet without any support from the board or the Ministers. Run they must or they will die from a heart attack or poison.

  • loreala says:

    At last an admission that his party’s deployment process is all about corruption, once all resources are finish then next SOE

  • Michele Rivarola says:

    And good riddance those who left now were mostly incompetent political lacquees including and specially Molefe’s wife.

  • Ben Hawkins says:

    Time for Mantashe and Gordhan to voertsek

  • Middle aged Mike says:

    As a youngster in the 80’s living in the UK I was ashamed to be a South African because of apartheid. Now I am embarrassed by what the drooling gravy guzzling imbeciles in the ANC government do to ruin the reputation of our country virtually every day.

    • Garth Kruger says:

      Mike: I often wonder where all the protest voices have gone? Now that we are a democracy the country can go to hell in a handbasket and no one overseas gives a fig. We can all vote now so it must be OK, right? There was an aricle in DM a while ago from Peter Hain blaming South Africans for not standing up. How do you stand up to this? I knew the ANC were going to be bad; I just did not think they could be this bad. And as far as entitlement and arrogance goes, the sky is the limit.

  • Mkili Muzenha says:

    Mice can smell methane in mines and are able to run away from it. Mice have a very keen sense of smell, and they are able to detect methane at much lower concentrations than humans can. Methane is a colorless and odorless gas, but it does have a slightly sweet smell that mice can detect.

    When mice smell methane, they will typically run away from it as quickly as possible. This is because methane is a flammable gas, and it can be explosive at high concentrations. If a mouse inhales too much methane, it can die.

    Miners have long used mice as early warning systems for methane gas. If miners see mice running away from a certain area, they will know that there is methane present, and they will evacuate the area.

    There have been many cases of miners being saved by mice. In one case, a group of miners were working in a mine when they saw mice running away from a certain area. The miners evacuated the area, and just a few minutes later, there was a methane explosion. The miners were all unharmed because they had heeded the warning of the mice.

    Another example is the case of a miner named John Cadman. Cadman was working in a mine when he saw a mouse running away from him. Cadman stopped and listened, and he could hear the sound of gas escaping. Cadman knew that he was in danger, so he ran away from the gas. Just a few seconds later, there was a methane explosion. Cadman was the only miner who survived the explosion because he had heeded the warning of the mouse.

  • Peter Holmes says:

    I personally know two (white males, devoted to their jobs) senior ex-Eskom personnel. Both saw the writing on the wall when junior (black) colleagues with very limited experience and no institutional knowledge were promoted to positions where my two friends had to kowtow to their new bosses. Both left. One took early retirement, the other went on to become the South African MD of a multinational (electrical) corporation and is now a very wealthy man. The sqabbling between Mantashe and Gordham was irrelevant.

  • Rob Rhodes-Houghton says:

    Clever mice. Not so clever politicians.

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