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By Faizel Patel

Senior Digital Journalist

Electricity minister needs to be ‘very special’, De Ruyter touted as ‘good candidate’

Energy expert Ted Blom said electricity minister needs to be someone experienced from the energy industry.

A political analyst said outgoing Eskom CEO André de Ruyter and current COO Jan Oberholzer would be good candidates to take up the position of minister of electricity to deal with the current Eskom energy crisis.

President Cyril Ramaphosa on Thursday night declared South Africa’s energy crisis a national state of disaster with immediate effect. He also said he will appoint a minister of electricity in the Presidency.

Electricity minister

The minister will work with Eskom to end load shedding.

The minister, the president said, will work “day and night” to arrest the crisis.

Speaking to The Citizen, North West University Professor André Duvenhage said the new electricity minister is likely to be a political appointee or cadre deployee.

“If you ask me who are the better candidates for doing this job, I would go the way of André de Ruyter and Jan Oberholzer.”

“The government announced a disaster situation which they will use and misuse to fight an election. This allows them the opportunity to channel funds and resources to their constituency like they did during the Covid disaster times.

“And therefore they need a political head and not a functional head. This was very much a political decision to give powers to politicians without the necessary oversight from the side of parliament. … Some polls are showing the support base of the ANC has dropped to 37% and they need to buy over the votes. I think that is the core of the strategy,” Duvenhage said.

ALSO READ: Eskom to impose load shedding at stages 3 and 2 over weekend

What about Mantashe and Gordhan?

Duvenhage said Ramaphosa needs to accommodate Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe and Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan because he needs their political support.

“So, he cannot take the line especially when it comes to Gwede Mantashe, because Gwede Mantashe saved him when he was at a point to resign in November after the committee findings on Phala Phala.”

“There’s political debt involved there to accommodate him. I don’t think, Gwede Mantashe is the right person and Ramaphosa knows it, but he also knows he can’t get rid of him,” Duvenhage.

Duvenhage said Ramaphosa’s Sona on the energy crisis is more a “showcase then a real plan” to get the electricity process back on track again.

A special person

Meanwhile, energy expert Ted Blom told The Citizen, the new electricity minister needs to be a “very special” person.

“I had a discussion with one of the Eskom board members, that if the person does not come from the industry, he’s clueless. So, you need somebody from the industry and preferably somebody who’s got more than 15 years experience, otherwise they are a novice to begin with.”

No corruption

Blom said South Africa cannot afford a “corrupt minister” with the current Eskom crisis.

“You can have all the tools in the world, but if you are fool you can mess it up. You need to have some wisdom and experience about where to go… All I ask is that if this is another corruption escapade like with Covid, the public better get on the street very quickly and stop the nonsense.”

Stop load shedding at all costs

Blom said the new electricity minister must try and stop load shedding at all costs.

“The problem with De Ruyter was that he was a total novice. The first thing I would do is go through the proposal I handed to Eskom in 2019. I said to them, I can bring in gas generators or diesel generators and we can have them up and running and stop the load shedding in total in 90 days.”

“We need to stop the load shedding at all costs. You need people with experience, people who know what they are talking about, not imbeciles that are deployed, otherwise you are going to wait forever and have no solution,” Blom said.

ALSO READ: Eskom mum on new electricity minister to resolve load shedding