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Mystery surrounds the identity of the “secret” funder of the Smart Meter programme of Electricity Minister Dr Kgosientso Ramokgopa. The Democratic Alliance’s (DA’s) Shadow Minister of Electricty Samantha Graham-Maré has been struggling for months to get answers. Graham-Maré points out that Smart Meters were touted quite early on in Ramokgopa’s term, and she recalls “a deeply concerning issue” around Smart Meters when the Minister was the Mayor of Tshwane. “…there was a whole sort of fraudulent tender process that happened there around Smart Meters. Then he came in as Minister of Electricity and suddenly the Smart Meters were back on the table…but I can’t get information because I’m being blocked.” After receiving no answers to a Promotion of Access to Information request to the Minister On 21 July 2023, she has now submitted Parliamentary questions to Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan. – Chris Steyn
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Relevant timestamps from the interview
- 00:00 – Introductions
- 00:42 – On engaging with the electricity minister
- 01:53 – On the achievements of the electricity minister
- 03:36 – On Eskom’s medium-term report
- 07:53 – On the ‘secret funder’ behind the Smart Meter initiative
- 09:30 – On issues taken up with Pravin Gordhan
- 10:55 – Concludes
Highlights from the interview
Mystery surrounds the identity of the “secret” funder of the Smart Meter programme of Electricity Minister Dr Kgosientso Ramokgopa.
The Democratic Alliance’s (DA’s) Shadow Minister of Electricty Samantha Graham-Maré has been struggling to get answers since July.
In this interview with BizNews, she says: “…they’ve piloted in Johannesburg. And according to all the reports, it’s going very, very well. The problem with that is that this whole thing is shrouded in secrecy.
“So I put in a PIA (Promotion of Access to Information) request to the minister to ask who’s getting the tender? How much do these meters cost? because it’s a 16 billion rand project ultimately. And the reports were that there’s a secret funder who’s involved and they’re 3000 rand a meter. And so I’ve asked for all the information.”
But she is still waiting for the answers.
“I had given them about 100 days. They’ve got 30 days to respond to a PIA request, and they can extend it to another 30 days. So shortly before the 30-day period, they came back to me and said, we’re busy working on it. That was in August. So I sort of gave them the benefit of the doubt and thought, okay, it’ll take a little while. But after 100 days, I think the message is quite clear, I’m not going to get the information.
“I’ve been ignored. The act says that if you do not receive a response, you can take it as a no, which means that they are refusing to give me the information.”
Graham-Maré points out that Smart Meters were touted quite early on in Ramokgopa’s term, shortly after he came into power.
And she recalls “a deeply concerning issue” around Smart Meters when the Minister was the Mayor of Tshwane. “…there was a whole sort of fraudulent tender process that happened there around Smart Meters. Then he came in as Minister of Electricity and suddenly the Smart Meters were back on the table, but with no indication of how it’s going to work. And he kept talking about the secret funder. Now, as I say, 16 billion rand is a lot of money. I can’t see somebody just drumming up 16 billion rand for Smart Meters, but I can’t get information because I’m being blocked.”
Graham-Maré has now submitted Parliamentary questions on this to Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan.
“…one of the questions on there was who the secret funder is and also…if we as the consumers are going to bear the cost in some way if there is no secret funder and a 16 billion rand project is put in place, who is actually going to bear the cost of that, and why would you use a Smart Meter for example in an RDP house where you’ve possibly got a geyser and maybe a fridge and maybe a tv. It’s like you know, smashing in a tiny nail with a sledgehammer. There are other mechanisms that can be used.
Smart Meters allows government to determine access to electricity for households by giving the authorities the power to cut electricity when it is determined that a specific threshold has been reached. This means that outside of loadshedding, a household could be cut by the Municipality as a mechanism to reduce consumption.
“So I don’t think they’re thinking this through very cleverly, but we need to find out what the thinking is around the Smart Meter programme before we can actually address what it’s going to do.”
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