Ramaphosa to give more powers to Electricity Minister

 ·10 Nov 2023

South Africa’s president will allocate more powers to his electricity czar to accelerate efforts to end the nation’s power crisis, a top governing party official said.

The proposal has the backing of the African National Congress, which is seeking faster implementation of an energy action plan before next year’s general election, Secretary-General Fikile Mbalula said in an interview in Johannesburg on Thursday.

President Cyril Ramaphosa appointed Kgosientsho Ramokgopa as electricity minister in March to end power outages of up to 12 hours a day that have curbed output in Africa’s most industrialized economy. It took the president two months to assign powers to Ramokgopa as he sought to avoid fallout between the energy and public enterprises ministers, who oversee energy policy and state power utility Eskom, respectively.

“He will be allocated more powers,” Mbalula said. “You can’t manage a sector or a crisis without powers.”

Ramokgopa’s current powers preclude him from any procurement or dealing directly with Eskom’s board, meaning he needs the permission of Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan and Mineral & Energy Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe to make decisions.

“He has been given generation powers, which were taken from the Department of Energy and Mineral Resources,” Mbalula said.  “The most important thing is to have power in order to be in a position to direct what needs to happen without asking from somebody else.”

The power cuts, known locally as load-shedding, have eroded support for the ANC. The party, which won 57.5% of the vote in 2019, is at risk of losing its majority nationally next year for the first time since it came to power in 1994.

Ramaphosa’s spokesman, Vincent Magwenya, declined to comment on the specifics of the planned allocation of additional powers to Ramokgopa.

“Everything possible is being done and being explored to ensure that we reduce the severity of load-shedding, that we add more generational capacity to the grid, and we resolve all other related value chain factors,” he said.

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