Mineral resources & energy minister Gwede Mantashe. Picture: ESA ALEXANDER/SUNDAY TIMES
Mineral resources & energy minister Gwede Mantashe. Picture: ESA ALEXANDER/SUNDAY TIMES

The ongoing crisis that is Eskom has reference, with crippling rolling blackouts heralding the start of the new year.  Independent power producers (IPPs) say they are “ready and able to step into the breach and provide surplus electricity quickly and cheaply”. That is at a cost of 40c/kWh, compared with Eskom’s 90c/kWh.

But energy minister Gwede Mantashe wants none of it, punting coal mining to save 87,000 jobs in the sector, many of them held by members of the National Union of Mineworkers, which Mantashe led from 1998 to 2006. This is to the detriment of the other 57-million South Africans, of businesses, of the economy, job creation, investment, clean energy creation and prospects for positive assessments from the ratings agencies, leading to increased crime levels, poverty and escalated skills migration.

In the interim, Eskom retains its bloated staff complement of 46,000, many in sheltered employment, and the fiscus cannot even repay the interest on the utility’s R450bn debt. “Nothing is being done” to enable additional power generation, says Dave Long, general secretary of the SA Independent Power Producers Association. He claims Mantashe’s recent request for information for short-term power supply from IPPs is “worthless”.

Neal Froneman, CEO of Sibanye-Stillwater, the country’s biggest precious metals producer, said in December that he cannot get approval for a 150MW solar plant, as have many other enterprises.

Of some gravitas is the comment by political analyst Ralph Mathekga that “Ramaphosa ... is likely to be loath to act against Mantashe because his control over the ANC remains tenuous and he needs to keep his allies on side. If he replaces him, the unions will overrun Ramaphosa.”

There you have it. SA Inc is being held to ransom by Mantashe and his union buddies.

John Perry

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