While Gwede Mantashe’s appointment as Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy has been hailed for the continuity it allowed in the mining sector, energy analyst, Chris Yelland, fears that the expansion of Mantashe’s portfolio will bring huge disruptions to South Africa’s energy policy.
President Cyril Ramaphosa made the announcement on Wednesday at the Union Buildings in Tshwane that Mantashe would serve as minister of a merged department between mineral resources and energy. This was part of Ramaphosa's strategy to introduce a leaner cabinet that reduced the number of ministries from 36 to 28.
Among other things, Yelland highlighted recent remarks that Mantashe reportedly made about the coal industry being "under attack". Mantashe urged captains of the coal industry to do all they can to protect themselves from this "attack".
Continuity for one, disruption for the other
Yelland told Fin24 that while Mantashe’s appointment to the merged portfolio allows for continuity in mining, it served as a considerable disruption for energy.
"For me, it is of concern that we have yet another minister of energy and it would have disturbed the continuity of energy policy. We have had a number of energy ministers in the past few years. In the last two years, we had (Tina Joemat) Pettersson, Mmabaloko Khubayi (Ngubane), David Mahlobo, (Jeff) Radebe and now we have Mantashe," said Yelland.
Yelland said this appointment to energy, would slow things down on a strategic level and disturb continuity.
"The big question in my mind is whether there will be a change to the draft Integrated Resource Plan. If you see the current draft, it is very pro-renewables. A new minister runs the risk of making it gravitate back towards coal," Yelland said.
Yelland said Mantashe’s recent remarks that coal mining must take note of attacks against it and develop a strategy to survive, meant his energy policies could potentially fly in the face of Radebe’s efforts to advance renewables. He said this could delay the promulgation of the IRP.
"The combination of the departments makes a link between mineral resources and energy. When you look at mineral resources and energy, we are talking about coal and electricity. Minister Mantashe recently said at a conference on coal that the coal industry was under siege," he said.
All good on the mining side
Professor analyst Somadoda Fikeni told Fin24 that Mantashe’s inclusion in the new Cabinet would do the mining sector a world of good, as it allows continuity in the industry where he has work experience and is well-liked.
"I do think that Mantashe is politically senior and is the ANC chairperson. He is one of the people who broke ranks and supported Ramaphosa for presidency. The mining sector and business sector said he had brought some stability in portfolios that saw many changes. It would have made a lot of sense for him to be brought back for stability," said Fikeni.
Fikeni said South Africa was never going to get a "perfect team" of ministers, but that Ramaphosa managed to include people that are above average from a pool of political heavyweights and emerging legislative minds.
During his Cabinet announcement on Wednesday evening, Ramaphosa said a reconfigured state would be an ideal outcome, but that this was currently a "process which should lead us to the blueprint of the government that South Africans would like to see".