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    The unnecessary non-Ministerial Ministry of Electricity will not take us out of the dark

    March 13, 2023 - Supplied, Letter to the Editor


      Aged power plant infrastructure, low-quality coal, internal sabotage, and years of mismanagement may very well be among the reasons the country suffered the worst load shedding recently.

      But what will take us out of this crisis? The nexus of South Africa’s energy crisis lies in the existence of two extremes in discussions of the energy future in South Africa. At face value, these extremes may seem merely administrative and governancerelated. However, they are ideological.

      The battle over the ideological direction of the energy future in South Africa plunges this country further into darkness such that no person, however qualified, would bring light any time soon.

      On the one hand, you have those who want South Africa’s energy provision in private hands, citing clean energy as a necessary direction, even when the country is among the least contributors to carbon emissions. They lobby the country to abruptly abandon coal as its energy source.

      The grouping is heavily funded through investments and is capitalist, with its roots emanating from Western countries. This grouping possesses some form of state and political power through co-opted politicians who serve its interests in both corridors.

      On the other hand, you have those arguing for a gradual energy transition that doesn’t overlook the impact on society, citing the socio-economic impact of the coal industry in many towns. The grouping argues for the preservation of jobs and the local economy of the coal industry.

      The former, due to its capitalist and typical privatisation approach, has no appetite for maintaining the efficiency of Eskom. Its interests are best served when the utility is incapable and have already advertised private entities as alternatives. To them, a perception of Eskom's incapacity must trigger public impatience and uproar, validating the private sector as the best option.

      While the other, because it holds the country’s executive through occupying political offices, is duty-bound to act and take decisions that are going to mitigate the impact of the transition on the public.

      Settling this ideological impasse is what will bring an end to the country's energy crisis, nothing else.

      The picket displayed at the 2023 Energy Indaba when the Minister of Energy was addressing the congregants is not something to overlook. It projects the impatience of those who stand to benefit should coal be abandoned in favour of renewables. He has been identified, even by the renewables lobby within his own party, as a stumbling block in their agenda to cross over to clean energy and real financial rewards of that transition.

      It is for this reason that the president could not implement a decision moving Eskom to the Department of Energy and Mineral Resources. Having him presiding over Eskom would have delayed their process of collapsing the entity and ultimately privatising energy provision.

      The unnecessary non-Ministerial Ministry of Electricity will not take us out of the darkness, at least not until the country solves this ideological uncertainty on the country’s energy future. Without doubting Dr Kgosientso Ramokgopa’s decorated academic profile, belittling his knowledge, or mistrusting his ability, he will not take the country out of the darkness. No one will.

      * Zuko Mndayi writes in his personal capacity and is the provincial secretary of the South African Youth Council in the Western Cape.

      ** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

      Cape Argus

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