At the annual Black Business Summit held in Kempton Park, Ekurhuleni, Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe assured black business leaders and the nation that the cloud of loadshedding will lift before the next year’s elections.
Loadshedding: A Fading Nightmare
Gwede Mantashe, who also serves as the chairman of the governing ANC, confidently suggested that loadshedding would be erased from South Africa’s problems list by the time of the upcoming national general elections. He hinted at the opposition parties’ strategies, stating, “Many have banked on having loadshedding going into the elections and [to] use that to [campaign against the ANC], no [it is not going to happen]. By the time of the elections there won’t be loadshedding. We would’ve resolved that.”
Mantashe attributed the country’s current experience of lower stages of loadshedding to the laser focus of Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa on the energy availability factor from each of SA’s power stations.
Ramokgopa’s Role and Actions
Mantashe expressed admiration for Ramokgopa’s approach, which involves addressing the emergency procurement and purchasing electricity from neighboring countries. In his words, “That is the correct approach to dealing with loadshedding. If we persist with that, we’d overcome loadshedding.”
Ramokgopa, who has been labelled a project manager by critics, got a vote of confidence from Mantashe, despite his seemingly powerless start as an electricity minister. The minister has since been granted the power to direct the procurement of new generation capacity and ensure security of supply, a development that came after President Cyril Ramaphosa signed a proclamation in May.
Mantashe defended the ‘project manager’ label, arguing, “No, project management is not reductionist… it’s a very important and fundamental approach to running an entity. Because there, you have a beginning and an end. You have critical parts and milestones you must achieve. And therefore it is a very important project management to manage loadshedding out. [Ramokgopa] is doing well. He is paying attention to the energy availability factor power station by power station.”
Mantashe believes that the collapse of Eskom was due to sub-optimal performance at coal generation power stations, which can be rectified by close attention to individual power stations.
Coal Business and the Just Energy Transition
While the just energy transition — the shift from fossil fuels to green energy — may seem foreign to SA, Mantashe encouraged the black business community to consider investing in coal mines, casting coal as a viable business opportunity.
Still, he reminded the audience about the environmental impact of coal mining and consumption. He cautioned the need for a transition from high carbon to low carbon emissions, stating, “We cannot only be about decarbonisation. We must deal with energy poverty.”
In closing, he called for a balanced approach, advocating for both environment and development, concluding that “Developers must develop responsibly. Environmentalists must tolerate development.” As the country steers towards a future without loadshedding, this vision of balance is one to watch.