The establishment of South Africa’s Ministry of Electricity set tongues wagging inside the corridors of power – and beyond. After all, how can a crucial department determine the country’s energy future without the budget and oversight to create and implement strategies that will ensure the availability of electricity? A recent ruling by the National Assembly Rules Committee has indicated that Kgosientsho Ramokgopa, the Electricity Minister, will not have his own budget nor will he be regulated by a Parliamentary committee.
The National Assembly Rules Committee’s meeting on Tuesday morning discussed the establishment of new ministries in the Presidency to determine whether portfolio committees would be necessary. A presentation by Secretary to the National Assembly, Masibulele Xaso, revealed the following outcomes:
- The Electricity Minister will not have a specific budget but will draw from the budget of Vote 1, which belongs to the Presidency. The Minister will not have a dedicated department, but will be supported by staff from the Presidency and other sources.
- The Presidency currently does not have committee oversight.
Qubudile Dyantyi, an ANC MP, suggested that a committee should not oversee the Ministry of Electricity as it did not have its own budget. The suggestion was supported by ANC MPs, which complicates the situation as the ruling party holds the majority in Parliament.
The rules committee was supposed to continue the discussion on the matter later that day. However, the ANC delegation was insistent on not making a decision regarding whether a committee should be established to oversee the Presidency. This decision has left the establishment of the Ministry of Electricity uncertain, which could present difficulties in determining the country’s energy plan going forward.
National Assembly Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula also added to the tension as she was unaware that the Ministry of Electricity was located in the Presidency. Her confusion was clarified by Hope Papo, an ANC MP, who stated that there was a national crisis committee on electricity in the Presidency that was “backing up” the work of the Minister of Electricity.
The rules committee supported the establishment of a portfolio committee to oversee the Ministry of Planning, Monitoring, and Evaluation, also situated in the Presidency. The committee will expand accountability and regulate the department that has its own budget.
The country is still grappling to understand the function and capabilities of the Ministry of Electricity. Discussions between legal teams from the Presidency, the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy, and the Department of Public Enterprises are ongoing to clarify the powers that will be delegated to Ramokgopa. The situation has been further complicated by the fact that the Ministry does not have a specific department or budget.
The establishment of South Africa’s Ministry of Electricity was supposed to provide a clear blueprint for the country’s energy plan. However, with no department, no budget, and no regulation, it remains to be seen how the department will execute its mandate to ensure the availability of electricity.