South Africa’s new electricity minister must answer to someone other than the president

 ·10 Mar 2023

Opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, says that the new ministry of electricity has no one to hold it accountable as per the normal oversight responsibilities of the legislature.

It said that the vacuum in oversight is a direct result of no parliamentary committee to oversee the Presidency or ad hoc committee to exercise oversight over the National Energy Crisis Committee (NECOM) being established, as advocated for by the party.

As a result, the party said that it would be submitting a draft resolution for the establishment of an ad hoc committee in accordance with Rule 253 to establish such a committee.

On 6 March, President Cyril Ramaphosa, during his cabinet reshuffle, appointed Kgosientsho Ramokgopa as the country’s new minister of electricity within his executive with the sole mandate of achieving the national energy action plan.

“Recognising that the new minister’s brief involves dealing with issues that straddle both the energy and public enterprises portfolios, the DA is proposing that the new ad hoc committee be constituted by members of parliament who already sit on these existing portfolios.”

“This will reduce oversight fragmentation and ensure that Ramokgopa is answerable to one parliament committee,” said the DA.

A lack of overseeing authority may lead to the executive getting a free pass on the electricity crisis without accountability.

“Parliament must not abdicate its responsibilities and should be allowed to exercise its oversight function over what is essentially a national electricity crisis.”

The party added that a clear course of action for the newly appointed minister has also not been provided.

Ramokgopa has been appointed as the minister in charge of implementing the existing energy action plan, which includes various interventions to address the country’s energy crisis.

Under his authority, the new minister can institute provisions listed in the national state of disaster act to mitigate the crisis through fast-tracking operations or circumventing red tape – this has caught the eyes of political parties and raised businesses’ brows over concern of regulatory mechanism being far too sweeping.

The plan includes resolving issues with Eskom, promoting private investment in generation, procuring new renewable energy sources, encouraging households to invest in solar energy, and transforming the electricity sector.

On top of this, the ministers’ tasks include maintenance initiatives, improving procurement, and communicating progress to the public regarding Eskom.

Reducing the severity and frequency of load shedding is just one part of the plan.

Ramokgopa has said that he is sure the load shedding crisis will come to an end; however, no set timeline was provided.

Read: Eskom’s turnaround plan is failing

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