‘School will help them understand project management is not reductionist’: Mantashe

Mineral resources minister digs in his heels on electricity ministry comments

14 February 2023 - 13:58
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Mineral resources and energy minister Gwede Mantashe. File photo.
Mineral resources and energy minister Gwede Mantashe. File photo.
Image: Dwayne Senior/Bloomberg.

Mineral resources minister Gwede Mantashe has stuck to his guns on the characterisation of the soon-to-be appointed minister of electricity as a “project manager”, saying this is by no means “reductionist”.

And anyone who does not understand the meaning of the word must go back to school, he said on Tuesday.

“Many people asked what this appointment means? We characterised it as a project management approach in dealing with a crisis. Some people in the media say: ‘when we characterise it as project management, we are reducing this ministry and its authority’.

“I think something called school will help them understand that project management is not reductionist. It emphasises urgency of execution and delivery of the project on time. 

“When you talk about the project management approach, one understands there are clear time frames, milestones and a critical path which we must not deviate from,” explained Mantashe, emphasising that “this is not reductionist. It’s communicating urgency and a desire to resolve this.”

He used the state of the nation address (Sona) debate at the Cape Town City Hall to defend President Cyril Ramaphosa’s decision to appoint the minister amid criticism that he already had a bloated cabinet.

During his seventh Sona in Cape Town last Thursday, Ramaphosa declared a national state of disaster to deal with the country’s load-shedding crisis. He also announced he will be appointing a minister of electricity in his office that will focus solely on ending load-shedding.

In an interview with the Sunday Times last week, Mantashe said this “project manager” will pull things together under one roof, in a similar way to the national energy crisis committee.

“My understanding is that we must approach this issue as a project management intervention so that we project-manage load-shedding.

“If there is a project manager who pulls things together, the approach is better than a loose arrangement. You are creating a ministry to focus on electricity. My interpretation is that [it is] to focus on the project of dealing with load-shedding.”

On Tuesday Mantashe told MPs: “We don’t have the luxury of waiting 24 months to resolve load-shedding. If we derail from the identified critical path, we will derail the whole project. That is how serious the president takes this crisis.”

Unfortunately, he said, “We have political parties that never want to be involved in finding solutions to crises. They believe that opposition means opposing anything that is tabled by the ANC and its government. That is a mistake because parties should contribute to finding solutions and solving crises.”

Slamming the DA, he said, in January the party said it would support the declaration of the state of disaster on the energy crisis.

“When the state of disaster was declared on February 9 2023 by the president, the same DA pronounced that they will take the ANC government to court and oppose the declaration of the state of disaster.

“This means they are talking from both sides of their mouths. The DA must throw ideas and we use those ideas to get solutions.” 

To deal with load-shedding in the short- to medium-term, Mantashe said the government would be ensuring there is improvement in Eskom’s energy availability factor (EAF) through maintenance and servicing of existing power stations. Other measures include:

  • procuring emergency or short-term power;
  • purchasing electricity from neighbouring countries; and
  • improving skills capacity at Eskom.

“The main focus is on improving the EAF at Tutuka (33.3% EAF), Kendal (45.5%), Duvha (20.7%), Majuba (44.3%), Kusile (24.7%) and Matla (42.8%) power stations. If all these stations could give us EAF of more than 50%, we would have resolved the better part of the electricity crisis.

“Government continues to develop generation capacity for the long-term sustainability of energy security for the country.”

Mantashe said 2,205MW of renewable energy was procured under bid window 4, of which 2,130MW are connected to the grid and providing the country with the much-needed capacity.

“A total of 2,583MW have been procured under bid window 5, of which 1,759MW are under construction.

“Under bid window 6 we procured 4,200MW, of which 1,000MW have been contracted.”

Furthermore, he said, 3,200MW could not be contracted due to grid transmission constraints.

“We welcome the interventions by government which will ensure that Eskom makes the necessary investments in grid transmission, particularly in the Northern Cape, Western Cape and Eastern Cape.

“The department of mineral resources and energy will issue a request for proposal consisting of 513MW of battery storage by the end of February and 3,000MW of gas to power by the end of the current financial year.”

In addition, he said, bid window 7 of up to 5,000MW was subject to grid capacity availability.

The South African mining sector contributed over 8% to the GDP, he said, which is 4% less than the envisioned 12% contribution.

The National Energy Regulator of South Africa approved registration of 406 embedded generators out of the 509 applications received, he added. The total capacity of the registered generators is 1,664MW.


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