Cape Town to Mantashe: Avoid 'costly litigation' by allowing municipalities to buy their own electricity

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The City of Cape Town has written to the minister of mineral resources and energy asking that it and other municipalities be permitted to buy electricity directly from independent power producers, avoiding a pending court case. 

Acting mayor Ian Neilson said in a statement on Wednesday that if Mantashe is serious about implementing immediate measures to resolve the load shedding crisis he would agree to the city's request.

"We need immediate action now and Minister Gwede Mantashe needs to show leadership and put the wellbeing of South Africans and our economy first," Neilson said.

On Tuesday, in the wake of the implementation of stage 6 load shedding, the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy released a short statement saying it would be introducing "immediate measures" to increase access to energy supply. This included the promised promulgation of section 34 determinations.

The determinations refer to a section in energy law that states that the minister of energy, in consultation with the national electricity regulator, may determine if new generation capacity is needed, whether the private sector should be involved, and who should be allowed to buy the electricity. The department described the move as "an urgent and immediate task to ensure economic growth," but has not provided a time-frame for when the decisions would be made. 

Mantashe, speaking on the sidelines of the South African Communist Party's special national congress in Kempton Park, said he was "not the minister responsible for Eskom". 

"I must be allowed to do my work within my responsibility, complement the work that is done in [the] public enterprise [portfolio]," he told News24. 

Avoid court process 

Cape Town has already lodged an application with the Pretoria High Court to allow it and other municipalities to purchase electricity directly from IPPs. The city is seeking permission from the Judge President of the Gauteng High Court to expedite the matter given the power crisis.

In its letter to Mantashe, dated December 11, 2019, the city implored Mantashe to consider and approve their request, thereby avoiding "protracted and costly" litigation.

At a media briefing on Wednesday following a meeting with Eskom leadership, President Cyril Ramaphosa said Eskom's board had made several proposals to increase Eskom's capacity by 5 000 MW.

Among the proposals were green-lighting self-generation and the increased use of IPPs. These, and other proposals, will be presented to Cabinet by Mantashe and Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan on Friday, he said.

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