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By Cornelia Le Roux

Digital Deputy News Editor

Electricity minister and staff will spark for R13m a year

Two special advisers to the minister come with a hefty salary of more than R2.15 million each.

The nation waited with bated breath for the lightbulb moment as to what the function and powers of Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa would be.

It took 11 very long weeks for President Cyril Ramaphosa to figure out exactly what he wants his electricity minister to do and how much this would set back taxpayers.

By the looks of it, about R13 million a year will suffice to keep Ramokgopa and his team fired up.

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Costly exercise: R13m a year for electricity minister and staff

According to a reply to a parliamentary question from the Democratic Alliance (DA), Ramokgopa will earn in excess of R2.4 million to primarily improve the generating capacity of Eskom‘s ailing power plants.

It has also come to light that the minister is entitled to a staff complement of 12 members, resulting in an estimated annual cost of R10.7 million to taxpayers.

As per the parliamentary reply, two special advisers to the minister come with a hefty salary bill of more than R2.15 million each, with the lowest paid members of the electricity minister’s team, earning more than R424 000 per year.

One of the special advisers is Silas Mzingeli Zimu, who served as special adviser on energy to former president Jacob Zuma back in 2015.

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‘Matter of urgency’ becomes R180k impasse

On 6 March, Ramaphosa appointed Ramokgopa as electricity minister to drive the “full and speedy implementation of government’s Energy Action Plan” in order to reduce the “severity and frequency of load shedding as a matter of urgency”.

The “matter of urgency” turned into a matter of impasse with ANC officials and legal teams from the Presidency, the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy, as well as the Department of Public Enterprises, locked in discussions for three months to thrash out a job description for Ramokgopa.

That is a job description that does not clash with that of Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy Gwede Mantashe.

This while taxpayers were all along forced to shelve out about R180 000 per month for Ramokgopa to while away his time with what the minister described as “diagnostic visits”.

Granted… He did not hold back on his touring schedule. The man actually visited 15 power stations between 20 March and 31 March 2023.

electricity minister ramokgopa eskom team
Minister of Electricity Kgosientsho Ramokgopa visited 15 power stations in less than a month. Picture: GCIS

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Electricity minister finally granted powers… but at what cost?

On 26 May, Ramaphosa finally assigned powers to Ramokgopa.

In terms of a proclamation signed by the president, the section of the Electricity Regulation Act that Ramokgopa is responsible for mainly involves the generation of new electricity.

The minister will also oversee all aspects of the electricity crisis response plan and will be government’s point of command in handling load shedding.

Ramokgopa can also, by law, allow for private sector participation in the generation of electricity.

According to DA spokesperson for electricity and MP Samantha Graham-Maré, the powers awarded to Ramokgopa are “ambiguous” and with a budget of R13 million for his newly-formed electricity department, the minister should have a performance plan overseen by an ad hoc committee.

This, however, was blocked by the African National Congress (ANC) through a majority vote in parliament.

ALSO READ: Eskom accepts fate after Treasury declines exemption on wasteful expenditure

‘Project manager’ with a taste for Michael Kors?

Graham-Maré further argued that during the three months before he was granted ministerial powers, Ramokgopa himself admitted that he was nothing more than a “project manager reporting to other ministers”.

“In these three months of inactivity, Ramokgopa and his staffers cost hard-working South Africans over R3 million, with nothing to show for it except expensive sightseeing trips and luxury clothing. This is a classic example of cadre deployment at its worst, where individuals are appointed to positions of power without the necessary accountability and outside of existing structures,” said Graham-Maré.

Ramokgopa recently appeared on eNCA in a boldly branded Michael Kors designer sweater, which costs a an eye-watering R6 000.

The high-end sweater drew mixed reactions on social media, with some slamming the minister’s “rookie move” as “an insult to the poor”.

This because most South Africans are struggling to keep their heads above water with the rising inflation and interest rates while the country has been crippled by the load shedding crisis.

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