Ramaphosa’s new ‘electricity minister’ is coming whether you like it or not

 ·16 Feb 2023

President Cyril Ramaphosa is not deterred by widespread criticism of his plans for a new ‘minister of electricity’ in South Africa, saying he is going ahead with the appointment.

Responding to the debate on his latest State of the Nation Address (SONA), the president said that the new minister would assume full responsibility for overseeing all aspects of the electricity crisis response.

He said that it is time “government shifts into gear” to end load shedding – which is why he deemed it necessary to appoint a special minister in the presidency and declare the energy crisis a national state of disaster.

“The minister will be responsible for driving the various actions being coordinated by the National Energy Crisis Committee to end load shedding as a matter of urgency.

“The reality is that the resolution of the energy crisis requires effective coordination across several departments and public entities,” Ramaphosa said.

He said this requires the undivided attention of a political principal who does not need to split their time and energies among different important responsibilities.

“This appointment will ensure that there is a minister who is ultimately responsible for resolving load shedding and who is able to work with all fellow cabinet ministers, departments and entities to do so,” said the president.

In response to critics who said the minister would cause confusion, fragmentation and a turf war between ministers, Ramaphosa said that this is not the case.

“The Minister of Electricity will be focused day in and day out only on addressing the load shedding crisis, working together with the management of Eskom and the board. The Minister will be leading the National Energy Crisis Committee and interacting with all other departments in the spirit of cooperative governance,” he said.

According to Ramaphosa, the minister of mineral resources and energy – currently Gwede Mantashe – will continue to deal with matters of energy policy as well as mineral resources.

“Beyond the energy crisis that we face, the restructuring of government will be effected to enable entities that fall under various departments to be properly located in those departments.”

“The Minister of Public Enterprises – headed by Pravin Gordhan – is executing the recommendations of the Presidential Review Commission and the State Owned Enterprises Council in relation to the ownership and governance of state-owned enterprises. That function should be completed in time as we continue with the restructuring of government,” said the president.

He said that the minister of public enterprises will therefore continue to work on the restructuring of Eskom as well as other state-owned enterprises until then.

South Africa may have a better chance to address the overriding challenge of the energy crisis with the focus of the minister of electricity and the work being done by the Eskom board.


Who will take the position of electricity minister is still unknown. However, South Africa’s Cabinet is expected to undergo a reshuffle after finance minister Enoch Godongwana’s budget speech next week.

Despite some clarity on the role of the new minister, details and answers on the role are still scarce – such as whether or not the position is a temporary measure or a new permanent feature of government.

The initial announcement of the minister during SONA reportedly came as a surprise even to Ramaphosa’s closest political allies in the ANC. The move went against a caucus decision to shift control over Eskom to the Department of Energy.

The reaction from Mantashe was to downplay the new minister’s role, calling it a “project management” position.

“To me, my understanding of this intervention from the president is that we must approach this issue as a project management intervention so that we project-manage the management of load-shedding,” he said.

He later clarified that he was not minimising the role, rather repeating the president’s aim that the position would have a singular focus – or project – in ending load shedding.

Read: New’ minister of electricity’ for South Africa won’t be unveiled until after the budget

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