- ANC national chairperson Gwede Mantashe has claimed that talks are underway within the ANC to sideline him from taking over stewardship of ailing power utility Eskom.
- He said the plan was to now split the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy into two separate entities and place a minister who is pro-renewable energy at the helm of the entity that will take over Eskom.
- Mantashe said such a move was meant to appease liberals at the expense of the deepening crisis.
Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe believes there is a calculated plan to make sure that the ailing power utility, Eskom, is not placed under his custodianship.
He made the revelations while addressing the ANC’s 9th Free State elective conference on Saturday.
Taking the opportunity to take a swipe at his own party’s national executive committee, Mantashe said the move was meant to appease liberals who want the country to reduce carbon emissions at the cost of citizens who must wallow in the darkness and other challenges created by not having electricity.
Mantashe said internally the ANC was now seeking to work around its own conference resolution that said Eskom should now be placed under the custodian of his ministry of mineral resources and energy.
This, according to the visibly aggrieved Mantashe, would be done by splitting the department into two - that of mineral resources and another entity separate to this, overseeing energy.
“Within the ANC there is a new debate that says energy and mining must be split. They will split energy from my department [of mineral resources and energy] then say they are taking Eskom to energy in terms of the resolution from the conference of the ANC,” said Mantashe.
He added that such a decision was being taken to “appease both sides” - those demanding the reduction of carbon emissions, while ensuring that national conference resolutions would be fulfilled in the process.
Mantashe reiterated that an individual who is a “greenie [supporter of green energy]” would then be placed to oversee this new standalone Department of Energy.
“What they are going to do - take a person who favours greenies [green energy] and ask him to run energy - but this won’t resolve the load-shedding crisis,” said the minister.
He described those calling for the move towards green energy as “succumbing to the pressure of lowering the consumption of coal and go for the use of renewables.”
“It’s not our enemies calling for this, it's ourselves,” said Mantashe.
He said those like him calling on Eskom to improve its own generation capacity through improving the current capacity of coal-generation power stations were seen as “rebels”, while all they wanted to do was to ensure that the NEC fulfils its key priorities for 2023 which are to accelerate and resolve the energy crisis and load shedding
The minister also bemoaned what he described as a witch hunt against him, saying the ANC elective conference saw in its wisdom that Eskom should be moved to energy, however now the “debate is shifting from Eskom to attacking Gwede Mantsahe.”
“Now you see, when the liberals mobilise each other they do so through the media and say you have never approved a single megawatt of power generated using renewables. It’s not true, so when I tried to explain that when you approve contracts for renewables - there is a lag time of building that facility, you won’t get electricity immediately, on average it will take 16 months to build that facility - I was called a cynic," said Mantashe.
His utterances came as calls were mounting for Eskom not to be placed under his stewardship owing to his stance on renewable energy and insistence on the continued utilisation of coal and other fossil fuels.
Mantashe said there were a few steps that would solve the current electricity crisis which included maintaining and servicing the capacity of Eskom’s coal generation power stations and ensuring that they move from a 49% electricity availability factor to at least 75%.
While the ANC has discussed the energy crisis internally, with opposition parties and other sectors, the party and the president have yet to address the nation on the state’s plan to resolve the escalating load shedding crisis.