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Power shortages on their way out, electricity minister insists to sceptical opposition

Power shortages on their way out, electricity minister insists to sceptical opposition
Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa. (Photo: Per-Anders Pettersson / Getty Images)

Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa’s doggedly upbeat take of ‘phenomenal improvement’ and ‘magnitude of strides’ in reducing rotational power cuts failed to spark in the House. But Tuesday’s statements signalled how the election campaigning is set to unfold.

The governing ANC on various platforms has started emphasising its achievements and talking about improvements and successes as its 2019 election manifesto reviews unfold as initial electioneering for the 2024 poll. 

Tuesday’s statement in the House by Electricity Minister in the Presidency Kgosientsho Ramokgopa continued that messaging.

Thank you for this opportunity to address Parliament to appraise the House and, by extension, the nation on the successes of the implementation of the energy action plan…”

Rattling off the megawatts, much of which he spoke of on Monday during his regular briefing, Ramokgopa said generation “continues to improve” to 28,883MW in October from 27,410MW in May, while unplanned breakdowns that scuppered electricity supply dropped from 17,369MW to 13,527MW over the same period, representing “an improvement… amounting to over three stages of load shedding”.

The hard reality that it would cost R390-billion over the next decade to ensure the transmission grid met demand was slipped in almost as an afterthought, after touting improved generation, the “positive indicator” of fewer unplanned outages and slippages, and the “success” of bringing Kusile power station units online.

And yet this R390-billion – in June the figure was R210-billion – is a tough ask in a troubled economy that’s lost R150-billion in tax income due to the rotational power cuts in the past year.

Long-term planning beyond talk of private sector investment seems unclear. Independent power projects in the Western and Eastern Cape are already unable to proceed due to the lack of capacity of a transmission grid that needs an additional 14,000km of power lines.

‘Minister without portfolio’

Opposition parties, which increasingly acerbically point to government failings, on Tuesday disagreed with the electricity minister’s bright outlook. 

IFP MP Mkhuleko Hlengwa bluntly pointed out: “The more people get off the grid, the less demand there is on Eskom, so, of course, load shedding reduces”, even though the move to rooftop solar and its accompanying tax breaks was for the rich, emphasising social inequality.

As “minister without portfolio, department-less, entity-less”, what did Ramokgopa do aside from public briefings and power station visits, asked Hlengwa, given the crime and corruption levels in not only Eskom, but the entire energy sector.

“Eskom is in trouble. Eskom is operating on the basis of bailouts. There is policy uncertainty, leadership uncertainty and leadership interference…”

Freedom Front Plus MP Wouter Wessels, said any extra megawatts were illusive – overall, Eskom’s energy availability factor had not improved and still fell short of the 60% target.

No reduction in the rolling power cuts would have been possible without households moving off the grid and Eskom’s purchase of 1,100MW from private producers.

It’s surprising how excited the ruling party gets in a little progress,” said Wessels, adding that this was a repetition of 2008 when the rolling blackouts were reduced ahead of elections the following year.

DA MP Samantha Graham-Maré was direct in saying Ramokgopa’s “affability and a winning smile is not going to resolve the energy crisis”.

And while supporters of the Proteas and the Springboks were happy to see their teams shoot the lights out, she said, “Our energy crisis has not been solved. It has been merely stayed.”

Significantly more work lay ahead to achieve a stable, efficient and cost-effective energy sector compliant with climate change and just transition goals. As is the DA’s wont, Graham-Maré went on to tout the DA-run Western Cape’s achievements.

EFF MP Busisiwe Mkhwebane, the former Public Protector who was impeached by the House, delivered her maiden speech touting coal as baseload power and how rotational power cuts would not end as long as the ANC was in power. She was congratulated by her new colleagues.

‘Not ornamental’

Like Ramokgopa, opposition MPs also claimed evidence and facts for their statements. Parliamentary public enterprises committee chairperson Khaya Magaxa railed against the opposition and the “biased mass media” campaign waged against the ANC government.

Even if Ramokgopa were in the House to declare an end to rotational power cuts, it would still be opposed, said Magaxa.

“That’s the role of the right wing of this House,” he said, adding later: “The intention of the biased mass media is simply to convey that the ANC government has no answer to load shedding…”

The committee chairperson talked the same megawatts as the minister and ran out of time to finish his speech. But his contribution highlighted the other side of electioneering – smear and whispering campaigns and styling the governing ANC as the victim.

In closing, Ramokgopa said, “My presence here is not ornamental”, and outlined his impact on policy by ensuring delays in the planned schedule of decommissioning power stations.

It was “uncalled for” to attribute the improved electricity supply to election campaigning, the minister said, before again finding his spark: “We have turned the corner, but we are not necessarily out of the woods.” DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Ben Hawkins says:


  • Cachunk Cachunk says:

    The scariest thing is that these incompetent ANC idiots actually believe their own BS.

  • Johan Buys says:

    MW and GW can easily pass by people. Here’s an easier way to look at it.

    You have a fleet of 40 delivery vehicles (40GW)
    At any given time you expect to have 5 in workshop for servicing (planned maintenance)
    What nobody would tolerate is 13 of your vehicles can’t do deliveries today because they are broken (unplanned breakdowns).

    What you don’t do is brag at the sports club about how you have 22 of your 40 vehicles on the road.

  • William Kelly says:

    Does he have a CEO for Eskom yet? Does he have a chairman for the board? Might also have been nice if he’d thanked De Ruyter for the land he left behind that he’s now busy implementing.

  • Libby De Villiers says:

    Why not, just at least as aside, mention who broke the system in the first place?
    No individual or company forced to provide their own power to keep their farms, businesses and personal lives up and running would would fall for this

  • Jacci Babich says:

    How much fuel is being burned, at taxpayer cost, to stay the load shedding? Thanks to its criminal actions over years of maladministration, the ANC government has landed us all into a debt ridden mess.

  • Hermann Funk says:

    It would be interesting to learn how much money is spent on diesel and for how many hours the emergency units are being used.

  • JP K says:

    So where are we at? It’s as though these briefings are meant to obfuscate. It seems implausible that a mere few months ago we had a CEO who was poisoned, who spoke of billions being siphoned off, criminal cartels and now all of a sudden we’ve turned a corner? Besides, it’s not as though the ANC has any credibility left. It’s as JZ stated: party before country.

    • Bob Dubery says:

      There’s often delays in politics (and in the business world) that can mean that Person A sets something in motion and then B inherits that. Trump, for example, promised that the US economy would recover. But it had already started recovering under Obama, so all Trump had to do was not foul things up. OK… that’s not all. There is always incoming fire that nobody can foresee, so he’d have to deal with that, but the basis for much of what he promised was already there.

      So it may be here. It seems that better maintenance is paying dividends. But a program to improve maintenance was begun under de Ruyter.

      So maybe the minister is reaping what was sown by de Ruyter.

      This happens all the time in politics. Tony Blair didn’t build a strong economy, he inherited it from Major. Of course the current head honcho takes the credit, but I don’t mind too much.

      There’s a story about Napoleon. It was put to him that a particular battle was in fact won by the initiative of a bold junior officer. Napoleon said “perhaps. But if that plan didn’t work, it would have been me who lost.”

      So let them take the credit because we will always hand them the blame. The good outcome will be if he realises what has happened and he keeps that ball rolling.

      • Karl Sittlinger says:

        Credit where credit is due, and in this case it simply is not due. I would agree with your reasoning if the ANC would have some major positives they are responsible for, but they have consistently messed up everything they touch. That we are loadshedding at all is purely and only due to bad decisions and corruption enabled by the ANC. In light of the elections, and them then claiming they banished loadshedding, we need to definitely ensure that blame is placed where it belongs and undeserved credit is not stolen from those that did the actual work, and actually got hounded out of the country for.

  • Middle aged Mike says:

    A cursory look at the graph of energy production by Eskom over the last 20 years should leave one in no doubt of where we are headed. No amount of Ramokgopa’s gormless lip flapping will alter that. Eskom is burning lakes of diesel procured from connected middle men to keep the lights on in preparation for the elections and the private sector’s independent procurement of the equivalent *nominal* generation capacity of a Kusile or Medupi likely has had a much greater impact than anything Eskom has done. The private sector would have done even more if they weren’t throttled by the willfully obstructive bureaucratic sabotage of Mantashe in terms of the IPP program and the inability (lack of desire?) of Eskom to provide transmission capacity.

  • Bob Dubery says:

    “Independent power projects in the Western and Eastern Cape are already unable to proceed due to the lack of capacity of a transmission grid that needs an additional 14,000km of power lines.”

    No surprises there. Governments or SOEs all over the world seem to have been caught napping here. For different reasons. Here we want to keep the lights on by almost any means. There they are trying to transition to green energy. In the latter case, the demand for greenness has led to an increased demand for electricity. The grids can’t cope, and nobody seems to have seen this coming. Companies win a tender for a wind farm, build it, commission it, show that it meets the requirements, and then get told that they won’t get an actual connection to the grid for years. So bang go their chances of starting to recover their outlay. Grids all over the world are inadequate both in their capacity and the in the inputs they allow, and upgrading has to happen quickly. Nobody (at least nobody in multiple Governments) seems to have seen this coming. Except, of course, the Chinese.

  • Brian Doyle says:

    Reality is something the ANC cannot and will not face. They have been the most destructive force in bringing South Africa to its knees

  • Betsy Kuhn says:

    yes because Eskom needs competition, anc and eskom can do what they want and we as the public can do nothing about it….ESKOM & ANC MUST GO…..SA must be build up to worldclass country that it was before the ANC put their long fingers in our country and everything but everything they touch turns to ….

  • Mike Schroeder says:

    “…this R390-billion – in June the figure was R210-billion …”
    How does that number increase by 86% (ie. almost double!) in just 4 months? The cost of the “progress” made?

  • Con Tester says:

    Someone doesn’t know the difference between “appraise” and “apprise.”

    There can be little doubt that the OCGTs are doing some serious overtime to bolster the ANC’s mendacious narrative of success. One can only wonder what spin ANC minions will put on things when those OCGTs start failing from overuse, as they inevitably will since they are designed for short-term use to cover excess demand.

    There is no fallback for broken-down OCGTs.

  • Rae Earl says:

    Matshela Koko did exactly what Eskom is doing now. During the World Cup Soccer in 2010 he ordered old worn out power stations to be pushed to destruction in order to make SA look good on the international stage. We are still paying the price for that destruction. The ANC is simply blowing smoke up its own backside by saying they have rescued Eskom. It will take the Multi Party Charter to undo the mess the ANC has made of Eskom, and definitely not an ANC/EFF coalition. That would spell the end of SA.

  • Antonio Tonin says:

    Simple maths is not something that interests politicians. Over 4 gigawatts in private household rooftop installations are being ignored by you, dear Minister Smiley Face, let alone massive private industrial generation. Eskom generation improved by 1.47 GW while unplanned breakdowns reduced by 3.84 GW. This means that, discounting unplanned breakdowns, total generation capacity has actually DECREASED by 2.37 GW. And the reduction in unplanned breakdowns, while being a good and necessary thing, is due at least in part to the rigorous maintenance programme initiated by De Ruyter while he was at the helm.

  • Johnny Kessel says:

    I recently read an insightful article on the mental health effects of gaslighting on the family of a narcissist, including depression, anxiety, and suicide. I wonder if anyone has researched the impact of gaslighting on a national scale.

    • Con Tester says:

      Perhaps you’re unaware of it, but “gas” (pronounced roughly as “gez”) is the colloquial term for electricity in most SAn black languages. Put together with “lighting,” the term suggests exactly what our deceitful Minister of Gez is claiming—namely a solution to the country’s power crisis—rather than what you and common conception of the idiom actually mean.

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