Minister of Electricity: ‘Nkabane could be suited for the position’

She has been deputy to Mantashe since 2021.


Where is the minister of electricity when we need him/her the most?

This is the burning question for most South Africans as the blackouts become unbearable and Eskom is now operating without a chief executive after André de Ruyter was released with immediate effect following his shocking claims about corruption at the power utility.

Stages

Eskom has again ramped up load shedding, from stage 4 to stage 6, and there is also speculation that stages 8 or 9 may hit the country in winter.

NOW READ: SA technically in stage 8 load shedding despite Eskom saying it’s stage 6

But before a total grid collapse becomes a reality, President Cyril Ramaphosa needs to follow through on a promise made in his State of the Nation Address, to urgently appoint a minister of electricity – if he still is confident about it.

This is despite scepticism from the general public who see the move as another way to give a cadre a job and to avoid hurting the feelings of Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe and Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan, who were supposed to deal with load shedding in the first place.

Cabinet reshuffle ‘delay’

Maybe Ramaphosa is delaying his reshuffle of the Cabinet because he is trying to appoint the right person to this crucial post.

However, the more he delays, the more things are falling apart. With a Cabinet reshuffle expected to take place soon, after Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana allocated a R254 billion debt relief package for Eskom in his budget speech on Wednesday, there has been speculation as to who will be the minister acting as a “project manager” in ending the energy crisis.

Potential candidate ANC

It is unlikely that Ramaphosa will appoint anyone outside the ANC. This is because the post will be in the spotlight and Ramaphosa wouldn’t want someone who’s not an ANC figure to gain the popularity and praise if they were to succeed in ending load shedding.

A look at the current Cabinet shows that no-one seems fit to take on the role. Some believe the post might be given to former Joburg mayor Parks Tau, who was recently sworn in as an MP, or Kgosientso “Sputla” Ramokgopa, who is a former Tshwane mayor.

It would be unfair for Ramaphosa to appoint Tau. Not that he is not capable, he is unfamiliar with the politics of Eskom.

He could, however, do a sterling job in another portfolio because he has shown his credentials as an MEC in Gauteng. As for Ramokgopa, during a television interview last week, he said he was not interested in taking the role.

He is a suitable candidate for the post because he has a wide range of experience, especially given his current job in the Presidency under infrastructure.

What he currently does gives him great insights into what makes investors tick and he would be a good fit in turning around Eskom.

Maybe he is sceptical about taking the post because he still has ambitions, or perhaps he doesn’t consider the department necessary because it doesn’t have a chance of achieving anything concrete in ending the blackouts.

This leads one to conclude that if this department is to be effective, it needs someone interested in proving themselves, someone familiar with the energy department even though he/ she hasn’t been in the forefront.

ALSO READ: Cabinet reshuffle issues to be ‘wrapped up’ by the end of February, says Mbalula

‘No agendas’

Maybe Nobuhle Nkabane, the current deputy minister of mineral resources and energy, is the right person. She has been deputy to Mantashe since 2021.

She is young, is familiar with the dynamics of Eskom and has been advocating for investment in nuclear energy, clearly signalling her understanding of how crucial energy security is for this country. By appointing her,

Ramaphosa would also show he is interested in solving this crisis because Nkabane doesn’t seem to have any nefarious agendas to fulfil, unlike other ministers who have been at the helm for enough time to acquire masters they report to, besides Ramaphosa.

This is the time for Ramaphosa to bring fresh, new faces into his Cabinet. But whatever the decision he makes or who he appoints, he should keep in mind that even though the minister of electricity is considered unnecessary by many, it will be one department that will be closely monitored.

This will be one post that will be harshly judged and might either see the ANC secure a majority or have to lead a coalition government come 2024.

READ MORE: Deputy Energy Minister Nobuhle Nkabane says SA should invest in nuclear energy

Read more on these topics

Andre de Ruyter Eskom Gwede Mantashe