Court botches ruling against SA’s minister of electricity regarding loadshedding

Open-Ed 

  • The Pretoria high court in South Africa has ordered Minister in the Presidency for Electricity, Dr Kgosientsho Ramokgopa, has until 31st January 2024 to take all reasonable steps to ensure public hospitals, clinics, schools and police stations are not affected by load-shedding (blackouts).
  • The electricity minister has no authority to procure much needed new generation capacity or direct electricity supply to honour the order. 

The court declared that load-shedding breached the rights to human dignity, life, freedom and security of the person, to an environment that was not harmful to people’s health and wellbeing, the right of access to healthcare services, food, and water and the right to basic education.

The judgment – delivered by Judge Norman Davis on behalf of the full bench – further stated that load shedding was a result of the government’s failure to:

  • Open the electricity generation market
  • Implement the Independent Power Procurement Programme (IPPP)
  • Prevent delays in constructing the Medupi and Kusile power stations
  • Failure protect Eskom from criminal activity, corruption, and state capture

A similar order was granted in May against the country’s minister for public enterprises, Pravin Gordhan, who appealed against the order saying that that it was impossible to implement as he did not have the power to generate and supply electricity, it was not competent in law for the same reason and that the order violated the separation of powers.

The appointment of a minister of electricity took care of the minister of public enterprise’s objections in his application for leave to appeal, said the judgment. The reality is that the electricity minister has no power to procure any new generation capacity or direct electricity supply.

Three months after his appointment, South Africa’s president, Mr. Cyril Ramaphosa, signed a proclamation to transfer some roles and responsibilities away from the country’s Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy in the regular government, Gwede Mantashe, to Minister in the Presidency for Electricity, Dr Kgosientsho Ramokgopa.The IPP Office, under the leadership of Mantashe since 2019, has not added a single electron to the grid. They stand accused of deepening the country’s energy crisis. Read more 

Ramaphosa’s move to parachute the natty dresser in as electricity minister to save the day by increasing generation capacity and adding more electrons to the grid, has essentially failed. The country’s energy availability factor (EAF) has continued to decline year on year and the people of South Africa face up to 10 hours of blackouts daily.

Eskom energy availability factory report for the last three years and currently at around 54%. Credit: Chris Yelland – X

Since his appointment, Ramokgopa has upped his air miles meeting energy industry stakeholders, heavy users, cabinet, business leaders in China and all of Eskom’s power generation facilities, always with a gullible media entourage on tow. His job seemingly, is to deflect government incompetence and spin disinformation. As it turns out, he has no office, no budget and no plan. He is was also not accountable to parliament or the people of South Africa up until recently where it was announced that he will now report to the Portfolio Committee on Public Enterprises which makes the recent court ruling even more confusing.

Motivation in question

Known for his designer clothes, luxury cars and very expensive watches, Ramokgopa, epitomises the ANC party elite, complete with a corruption cloud over his head due to his involvement in a multi-billion rand tender scandal during his time as Tshwane mayor. He was embroiled in a controversial tender awarded to PEU Capital Partners, which led to a legal challenge and a termination agreement that cost taxpayers hundreds of millions. Additionally, the Tshwane mayoral residence underwent a controversial R12 million makeover during his tenure. Read more

Ramokgopa is overshadowed by the country’s Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, Gwede Mantashe, and the IPP Office that falls under his control. Together, they have the final decision and signature of power purchase agreements. Until this changes, the court order is essentially meaningless and will likely be challenged by Ramokgopa.

Author: Bryan Groenendaal

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