Ramaphosa Defends Move To Appoint Electricity Minister

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa defended his plans to appoint a minister of electricity in his office and denied that the move will result in a turf war with other members of his cabinet who help oversee energy provision.

Africa’s most industrialised economy has been dogged by rotating blackouts, know locally as load shedding, since 2008 — a problem the new minister will focus on tackling “ day-in and day-out,” Ramaphosa said in reply to a debate on the state-of-the-nation address he delivered last week during which the planned appointment was announced.

Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe currently takes overall responsibility for the electricity supply, while Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan oversees state power utility Eskom. They have voiced differing views on how the energy crisis should be handled.

While some people have suggested that the appointment of the new minister “will cause confusion and fragmentation,” this is not the case, Ramaphosa said. “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.”

Ramaphosa reiterated that he intends restructuring the government to ensure that all state entities fell within the ambit of the appropriate departments. His comments appear to be in line with a resolution adopted by the governing African National Congress earlier this year that could effectively render the public enterprises department redundant and see Eskom answering to the energy minister.

The new minister will work together with Eskom’s board and management, while Gordhan will continue working on plans to split the utility into three entities focusing on generation, transmission and distribution, according to the president.

In his speech, Ramaphosa publicly acknowledged for the first time that his deputy David Mabuza has indicated that he wants to step down, and said the request was being attended to.

Naming a replacement will be part of a much-anticipated cabinet reshuffle that is set to take place in coming weeks. The frontrunner for the No. 2 post is Paul Mashatile, who replaced Mabuza as the ANC’s deputy leader in December.