Ramaphosa transfers powers to Electricity Minister to address energy crisis

By S’thembile Cele and Paul Burkhardt

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa allocated a range of powers to his electricity minister to help address the nation’s energy crisis, almost three months after appointing him.

The announcement transfers some responsibilities away from Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe, who has faced criticism for stifling the government’s efforts to transition away from the use of coal, which is used to produce most of the nation’s electricity, and buy more green energy.

“This proclamation will provide the minister of electricity with the powers necessary to direct the procurement of new generation capacity and ensure security of supply,” the presidency said in a statement on Friday. “The president’s delineation of powers and functions is directed at ensuring effective coordination and dedicated focus to deal more effectively and urgently with the electricity crisis.”

Ramaphosa has drawn censure from local companies for delaying giving Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa, who was appointed March 7, the authority he needs to deal with record blackouts that are hobbling Africa’s most-industrialized economy. The outages have fueled investor concern about the outlook for economic growth and dragged the rand to record lows against the dollar this year.

Partially lit office buildings on the city skyline during a loadshedding power outage period, in Johannesburg, South Africa. Photographer: Leon Sadiki/Bloomberg

Ramokgopa will be able to determine the types of energy sources from which electricity must be generated, according to the statement. He’s also been given the authority to enable private-sector participation in the procurement of new generation capacity. 

As South Africa’s electricity shortages have grown more severe, a number of government measures to increase supply have failed to show much progress.

Ramaphosa in July doubled the procurement of renewable auctions, but the national grid has limited connections for projects in some regions. A number of processes overseen by Mantashe to buy in additional generation capacity have been dogged by delays and legal challenges.

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