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Mantashe is the biggest problem for SA climate change


Shapshak is editor-in-chief of and executive director of Scrolla.Africa

Stuck in the past, blinded by coal, the energy minister makes incomprehensible and irrational comments much more damaging to the economy than Lindiwe Sisulu’s

Maybe it’s a giant prank. Maybe Gwede Mantashe is just punking us all. It’s hard to tell whether Mantashe is playing some really elaborate, double entendre spoof like the kind of thing the great comedian Andy Kaufman used to do. American comedy genius Kaufman, made famous by the REM song Man on the Moon and the Jim Carrey movie of the same name, created these elaborate setups to confound audiences’ expectations, in one case being a wrestler.

So, what does one make of a Cabinet minister who makes the kinds of outlandish, irrational and implausible comments that are distinctly at odds with his own President’s priorities and that threaten real investment?

These include that there is “an anti-development movement that is emerging, which is very confident, very emboldened. Every time you explore for mining, or even for oil and gas in the ocean, they take you to court. Their aim is to kill investment through the courts,” he told a mining conference on 25 January.

“They are funded heavily by foreign entities. That’s why they have top-class lawyers to oppose exploration. And if we don’t protect that, we are not going to succeed in growing the mining industry,” he added, reading from the Trump Playbook of Bull**it.

Let’s not forget his unforgivable comment that Wild Coast protests against Shell’s planned disruptive seismic survey were “apartheid and colonialism of a special type”.

On 23 January, he told City Press that the UK’s Children’s Investment Fund Foundation “channelled” money to an institution based in the University of Cape Town (UCT), “which funds a number of projects, including aspects of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research [CSIR] and other civil society groups to destabilise the work of the department”.

But fear not, the intrepid Mantashe has uncovered this dubious international plot to save the planet, he claims. “But because we are aware, we can confront it. The money is from the UK, goes through UCT – through an institution I will not name – which channels the money to the CSIR and civil society [organisations]. The fact that we are aware makes us able to actually deal with the reality that we are confronted with.”

Meanwhile, he further claims there is a “coordinated media campaign” run through the “predominantly white liberal media” and funded by these nefarious climate change bodies who viciously want to save Mpumalanga’s pollution-ravaged communities from their own government’s lack of care.

Huh? Is he being weirdly sarcastic? Or does he truly believe that any adverse criticism must be a foreign-funded CIA ploy?

Like many people have said of Tourism Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, he’s not in Cabinet for his intellect.

Mantashe’s conduct is frankly more egregious than Sisulu’s. She’s a loose ideological cannon, but really only a midget desktop cannon about the size of a first-year sociology student’s ham-fisted attempts at making sense of Karl Marx.

Nobody takes her seriously, despite her family name.

But Mantashe is handling real money. His public utterances, however deranged, have an impact on foreign direct investment – making his paranoid schizophrenic verbal diarrhoea potentially damaging to the country’s bottom line.

Somebody has to pay for the process of moving from outdated, redundant, planet-pollution technologies (like mining for coal) and start the implementation of new technologies (am I writing slow enough for the energy minister to grasp this?) such as solar, renewables and battery storage.

Mantashe can’t get his head around the change management that is required to move from a now-redundant way of doing things, which happens to make Eskom one of the world’s biggest polluters, towards a new way. It’s change management in a particularly obvious way: change the mindset of the business, of its management, of its staff, of its consumers. Every big business goes through this, as do governments.

Mantashe, the former trade unionist who ran the National Union of Mineworkers, is stuck in the past and can’t see how destructive his actions are. Then again, he claimed at the Zondo Commission not to know who installed his expensive home security system – at a time when Bosasa was Gupta-rising off state assets. Like any security-conscious South African doesn’t know everything about their home security.

Mantashe’s comments are frankly scandalous, and deserve more censure than Sisulu’s, irrespective of the fact that they are generally incomprehensible.

It’s also hard to take him at his word, given his brilliant obfuscation when he was the ANC secretary-general for the last five years of #PresidunceZuma’s chaotic and corrupt reign. Donald Rumsfeld would have been proud.

“I’m running [my portfolio] to the best of my ability,” Mantashe told City Press. “Many journalists and editors have created a picture of an isolated Gwede Mantashe. I’m running [the Department of] Mineral Resources and Energy. I’m not running renewable energy. I’m running mineral resources and energy.”

And that is the problem right there. Minerals are the past. Renewable energy is the future. Please can someone tell Gwede Mantashe? DM168

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper which is available for R25 at Pick n Pay, Exclusive Books and airport bookstores. For your nearest stockist, please click here.


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Rolando MacJones says:

    Nope, transition of Asian countries from subsistence poverty to middle class wealth is the biggest danger for global warming aka climate change.

    Don’t be silly.

  • Rolando MacJones says:

    I’m no fan of Gwede’s, but I think he is feeling the pressure of his responsibility.

    “Let’s not forget his unforgivable comment that Wild Coast protests against Shell’s planned disruptive seismic survey were “apartheid and colonialism of a special type”.”

    Indeed, it’s easy for privileged people like the author to presume that their precious concerns are shared by all.

    It’s also precious to presume that relatively easy middle class existence is awful. However, in practice what we observe is a huge migration of young adults from the eastern cape to cape town in particular, and to urban areas in general.

    Why? Because they prefer to do so. Their choice is to seek their fortune not in traditional Xhosa areas, but in modern society.

    I am totally on board with my own selfish enjoyment of the former Transkei. It’s mostly beautiful and sometimes a bit dangerous.

    But Saffer citizens are voting with their feet. Out of the eastern cape.

    Explain that, and then reconsider development.

  • Rolando MacJones says:

    I’m sitting now in Eskom se push load shedding.

    If you believe that renewables will provide energy security to all, on their own, then I think you have not done your homework.

    I am a qualified scientist. I am a very experienced engineer. I am qualified to proclaim. It irks me that social and grievance studies journalists believe they are similarly qualified.

    • virginia crawford says:

      The ideal is a mix and being ready to make use of technology that improves renewable energy’s output/ storage.

    • Wolfgang Preiser says:

      Your intellectual (?) jumps are dizzying. Loadshedding as an argument against renewable energy sources? Because dangerous dirty old coal is oh-so-reliable? Unless it gets rained on, a belt breaks, or a boiler blows up? Seems it’s not just the minister responsible who has to read up on loadshedding. But at least you seem to know the schedule – in contrast to him you may not have a backup generator.

    • Dennis Bailey says:

      Okay, but pushing coal for the next decade is going to get us where we need to go either (as current load shedding demonstrates yet again). There’s more to be gained by going with the international flow of scientific knowledge about our ageing planet than simply investing in a creaking past.

  • virginia crawford says:

    Cognitive mental decline? He shows all the signs.

  • Dennis Bailey says:

    Most of SA political leadership has reached its sell-by date but the masses have spoken. Educate the leadership to do differently. Increasingly communities affected by delinquent leadership are doing the education spontaneously for themselves and these efforts will only intensify as leaders step more out of line with electorate aspirations (think July 21).

  • Franz Dullaart says:

    If “renewables” are the future, it must be the far distant future. Without financially viable storage, they need 100% backup. So what you are advocating is a doubling of infrastructure. Sounds like madness.

  • Charles Parr says:

    Let’s give Gwede some credit, at least he knows that he’s running the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy and not the Department of Renewable Energy. That alone must provide great relief to the citizens of this country.

  • Bruce Watney says:

    Well said Toby, why is it ? That we are the only one’s that can see it. Every ANC decision is tainted by political decisions. Either an upcoming conference, or Branch popularity, or Elections. No decision is ever made based on whats good for the country or its people, or the World. We are in a Climate crisis, with our neighbours being flooded out, cyclones off Madagascar 🇲🇬 threatening to wipe out Zim, and neighbouring countries, droughts, storms, flooding all through Africa, & all over the World, but he continues to mutter, economy destroying statements, investment statements, in the face of such clear signs of Climate Crisis. Would Moron, describe him perfectly. Zapiro’s cartoon illustrated it perfectly. Love Zap.

  • Helen Lachenicht says:

    You know what they say .. “a wise man changes his mind and a fool never”….

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