Minister of mineral resources & energy Gwede Mantashe. Picture: GCIS
Minister of mineral resources & energy Gwede Mantashe. Picture: GCIS

Poor social development minister Lindiwe Zulu. We don’t know if she is one of those suffering MPs who “struggle to make ends meet”, as President Cyril Ramaphosa compassionately shared with us, but she certainly has to muck in with the rest of us ordinary citizens. 

We know this because Zulu was in an interview with the SABC last week when load-shedding struck. “Oh no,” Zulu had time to exclaim as the lights went out.

Nevertheless, last Thursday was a light bulb moment — pun intended — when the president appeared to have run out of patience with mineral resources & energy minister Gwede Mantashe and announced that companies could build their own energy capacity. 

Instead of the incomprehensibly limited 10MW Mantashe had in mind, Ramaphosa multiplied what they were asking for and gave these enterprises permission to produce 100MW of their own power.

Mantashe should know that mines, manufacturing plants, farms and basically any company that can afford to would gladly build their own power sources. 

Yet he told parliament this month: “Our research and survey, where we had about 10,000 people responding, [demonstrates] overwhelming support for the 10MW.”

Let us take a closer look, using my suburban house as an example. I require three 4.8kW batteries, giving us 14.4kW total capacity to have enough to spare, should the lights go out. Our inverter has 7.2kW.

My solar guru, Chris Liebenberg, assures me it’s all we need. After the last two weeks of blackouts, we can confirm it’s enough.

But we’re only about 80% off the grid. Liebenberg explains it isn’t cost-effective for a private home to go completely off-grid, so the big power users (the pool pump, borehole, stove and a bit for the geyser at 5am) are still connected directly to the grid. 

Our home in sunny suburbia consumes about 1% of the entire capacity Mantashe says a mine, for instance, is only interested in, according to his “research”.

Perhaps only on Planet ANC. The rest of us can’t imagine why such an artificially low level was set. Nor why 10,000 presumably rational people, who are presumably business owners, said so. 

I want to meet any one of these 10,000 naysayers who think hamstringing their firms with a mere 10MW is good business logic.

And after two wasted years, Mantashe’s solution was to give 60% of the urgently needed, newly built, job-creating 2,000MW power requirements to foreign-owned, clearly second-hand Karpowership. 

Amazingly, a business partner of his wife, Vuyani Gaga, happened to be at a meeting where director-general Thabo Mokoena and deputy director-general Tseliso Maqubela had with a bidder. Also present was lawyer Luvo Makasi, known as former water & sanitation minister Nomvula Mokonyane’s “Ben10”.

If you needed a sign of how brazen “alleged” corruption has become, look no further than the admission, in court documents, by a government DG that this meeting took place. 

Like Mantashe, they obviously checked with at least 10,000 people whether that was ethical.

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