Mantashe: Eskom has its own ministry, we cannot just walk in and out

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In government you do not just do as you wish, says Gwede Mantashe.
In government you do not just do as you wish, says Gwede Mantashe.

The Department of Mineral Resources and Energy "cannot just walk in and out of Eskom as it likes", Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe said on Thursday in response to a question on the latest round of load shedding.

Mantashe was announcing 25 preferred bidders for the fifth round of the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REIPPPP), which aims to provide just under 2 600 MW of additional power to South Africa's ailing grid.

Mantashe's comments followed hot on the heels of a briefing by Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan and Eskom CEO André de Ruyter, who had on Wednesday updated media on the state of the grid.

Earlier in the week, the power utility was obliged to roll out Stage 4 load shedding.

Gordhan on Wednesday cautioned against Eskom being turned into a "political football" ahead of elections – but that did not stop a little back-and-forth between ministries as Mantashe made his announcement.

Mantashe said load shedding was due to Eskom not running existing capacity efficiently. However, he said, his department "cannot just walk in and out of Eskom as it likes, because there is another ministry responsible for the power utility". 

"In government, you do not just do as you wish. It is not your household. You don't execute what [the media] wants. We are executing a policy at this stage, namely IRP 2019. We don't sleep and wake up and change it. That will mess up the whole system if you just do as you wish," said Mantashe.

On Wednesday, Gordhan had said the aim was to reach a stage where no load shedding is needed sometime over the weekend and that no load shedding was expected on election day on Monday - unless something unexpected occurs.

Gordhan said faults are sometimes outside of Eskom's control and cautioned that Eskom should not be treated as a "political football".

Right back

During the briefing, Gordhan was questioned about adding more power, to which he had responded that it was not up to him or Eskom. 

"The electricity system in SA urgently requires more megawatts. It is now urgent. Securing the right amount of private investment must be sped up," said Gordhan.

He said Eskom had been a key target during the state capture era and far more needs to be done in terms of the energy system in SA to reach a point of energy security for economic growth.

During his briefing, Mantashe said it was unfortunate his department's renewable energy announcement happened at a time when the country is experiencing load shedding due to unavailability of the Eskom power generation units. 

"We hardly have any during the day, but two at night. That shows the state of our base load. I am leaving that to experts to analyse otherwise we are chasing our tails. Without base load for renewables, we are heading for a disaster," he said.  

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