Ramaphosa has his work cut out for him

2014-12-11 14:50

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa’s to do list just keeps getting longer.

President Jacob Zuma now wants his ever-busy deputy to fix three embattled state-owned entities – Eskom, South African Airways (SAA) and the South African Post Office.

This week, Zuma assigned Ramaphosa to oversee the turnaround of the three struggling state-owned enterprises, adding to a long list of responsibilities for the deputy president.

Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe told journalists this morning that the Cabinet was concerned about the performance of some of the state-owned companies, in particular the three and have decided to expedite their turnaround process.

“These state-owned entities play a critical developmental role within the South African economy,” said Radebe, who is responsible for monitoring and evaluation.

He said Ramaphosa’s role would be that of political oversight and that he will be working with the ministers of energy, public enterprises, finance and postal services and communication.

“It doesn’t remove the responsibility of line function ministers. It is to make sure that the deputy president will be hovering over them like a hawk to make sure that the turnaround takes place…” said Radebe.

No time frames have been given for the turnaround process.

Ramaphosa, who was appointed the country’s deputy president in May, is also the leader of government business in parliament, a constitutionally mandated position which ensures that there is coordination of the executive’s work with that of parliament.

Recently, leaders of opposition parties have criticised Ramaphosa for failing to give proper attention to that duty.

In September, Zuma appointed Ramaphosa to mediate in the political crisis in Lesotho following an attempted coup in the mountain kingdom. He has been in that country at least 10 times since his appointment to ensure the implementation of the Maseru facilitation declaration, which will culminate in that country’s general elections in February 2015.

Radebe also announced that the government was in a process of transferring the cash strapped SAA from the Department of Public Enterprises to the National Treasury.

“The reason for that is very obvious: the financial challenges that the SAA is facing. Being transferred to national treasury, it will be closer to the attention that it needs.”

He reminded journalists that it was not the first time that an entity has been transferred from one government department to another, as about nine years ago, the Land Bank was transferred from the department of agriculture to treasury.

Radebe referred questions about details of the transfer to Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene, who had a preparatory meeting with Zuma and Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown yesterday.

Radebe said only Zuma can answer the question of whether the move was permanent as he is the one who assigns responsibilities to members of the executive.

Regarding the ongoing power outages, Radebe said the Cabinet remained concerned over the disruptive effect these were having on the daily lives of South Africans and its impact on households and businesses across the country.

As a result, the Cabinet has adopted a five-point plan to address the electricity challenges.

“The lack of sufficient capacity to meet the country’s energy needs remains a challenge and all attempts are being made to ensure that we overcome the tight energy situation.

“To meet the country’s future energy requirements, government is implementing an energy mix which comprises of coal, solar, wind, hydro, gas and nuclear energy,” he said.

In future biomass, wind power, solar power and hydro-power will contribute 11.4 Gigawatts of renewable energy to the grid, said Radebe.

He revealed that Eskom was due to sign a memorandum of understanding with the Strategic Fuel Fund and Transnet Ports Authority so that the country can be assured of a regular supply of diesel.

He said focus will be given to improve the strategic maintenance and operational efficiency to ensure that the level of efficiency is increased from the 72% currently to the target of 80%.

Radebe said Eskom will present a detailed finance plan to manage its cash flow beyond 2015. The plan will be presented to the inter-ministerial committee by the end of this month and simultaneously government will finance the funding model.

Cogeneration options will be pursued with the sugar paper and pulp industries to harness waste energy to the extent of 1000 megawatts.

“There are significant opportunities for the importation of gas. A coal independent power producer programme will be launched by the end of January 2015 with generation capacity of 2 500 megawatts.”

A technical team war room for the implementation of the five-point plan is constituted with immediate effect. He said the five-point plan addresses the strain our electricity system faces. The plan covers:

» the interventions that Eskom will undertake in the period over the next 30 days,

» harnessing the cogeneration opportunity through the extension of existing contracts with the private sector;

» accelerating the programme for substitution of diesel with gas to fire up the diesel power plants;

» launching a coal independent power producer programme; and

» managing demand through specific interventions within residential dwellings, public and commercial buildings and municipalities through retrofitting energy efficient technologies.

Energy Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson added that the war room will comprise of the departments of energy, cooperative governance and traditional affairs, public enterprises, treasury, trade and industry, economic development, water and sanitation and Eskom.

The team will include technical officials, relevant experts including international experts and the private sector where necessary and will drive the implementation of the interventions envisaged by the five-point plan.

It will report to the economic cluster ministers, said Joemat-Pettersson.

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