Ramaphosa to appoint minister of electricity in his office

President made the announcement when he delivered his annual state of the nation address in parliament on Thursday night.

President Cyril Ramaphosa delivers his state of the nation address at the Cape Town City Hall.
Image: GCIS

President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced he will soon appoint a minister in the presidency who will deal specifically with the country’s electricity crisis.

The decision effectively moves the embattled Eskom to his office.

This comes as part of the government’s intervention plan to resolve the energy crisis —  including the declaration of a state of national disaster.

“To deal more effectively and urgently with the challenges that confront us, I will appoint a minister of electricity in the presidency to assume full responsibility for overseeing all aspects of the electricity crisis response, including the work of the National Energy Crisis Committee,” said Ramaphosa.

“The minister will focus full-time and work with the Eskom board and management on ending load-shedding and ensuring that the energy action plan is implemented without delay.”

Ramaphosa made the announcement when he delivered his annual state of the nation address in parliament on Thursday.

The energy crisis has put a huge dent in Ramaphosa’s leadership, with concerns from several quarters about whether he has the capacity to end load-shedding.

The crisis has put sharp focus on Eskom, which has a debt of almost R400bn.

There were calls, which Ramaphosa has now heeded, to declare a national state of disaster.

Some were also lobbying for Eskom to be moved to the department of minerals and energy.

Ramaphosa has instead opted to place Eskom directly under his office.

This has been Ramaphosa’s modus operandi since taking over government in 2018 where he places crisis-stricken departments and entities at the Union Buildings.

A recent example was the controversial move to place state security under the presidency.

Now Ramaphosa has yanked Eskom away from Pravin Gordhan’s department of public enterprises and effectively declined calls for the power utility to be placed under the care of Gwede Mantashe’s department of minerals and energy.

“Extraordinary circumstances call for extraordinary measures,” said Ramaphosa justifying his decision.

“The energy crisis is an existential threat to our economy and social fabric. We must spare no effort, and we must allow no delay, in implementing these measures. As we take these actions to resolve the energy crisis, we are mindful of the risks that climate change poses to our society.”

Gordhan has not been completely cut off from Eskom as Ramaphosa says his department will continue to play a part, especially in its restructuring.

“So to remove any confusion, the minister of public enterprises will remain the shareholder representative of Eskom and steer the restructuring of Eskom, ensure the establishment of the transmission company, oversee the implementation of the just energy transition programme, and oversee the establishment of the SOE holding company,” said Ramaphosa.

This intervention, he said, will go a long way towards ending load-shedding.

“Our most immediate task is to dramatically reduce the severity of load-shedding in the coming months and ultimately end load-shedding altogether.”

“Under these conditions, we cannot proceed as we usually would. The people of South Africa want action, they want solutions and they want government to work for them. They simply want to know when a problem like load-shedding will be brought to an end.”

Ramaphosa said the electricity crisis required special attention and he had therefore declared a state of disaster.

This, he said, took effect immediately and would give the government the space to deal with load-shedding that has affected every aspect of citizens’ lives.

“The minister of Cogta has just gazetted a declaration of state of disaster which will begin with immediate effect,” Ramaphosa said.

“It will enable us to provide practical measures to support businesses with an uninterrupted power supply.”

The state of disaster will, according to Ramaphosa enable the government to “accelerate the energy process and limit regulatory requirements”.