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South Africa is waiting on Mantashe’s 100 MW notice – is he deliberately stonewalling the process?

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on 10 June 2021 that permission for the generation of electricity, without having to do through the time-consuming process of registration, will be increased from 10 MW to 100 MW.

The Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, Mr Gwede Mantashe, was supposed to issue a notice confirming this within 60 days. But now it appears as if Mantashe is trying to use administrative non-performance to stonewall the President's announcement.

The 60 days lapsed yesterday – if calculated according to calendar days. Even if the Minister thinks that he has 60 workdays, the time is also running out very fast.

There are constant rumours that Mantashe did not support Ramaphosa's announcement. He is reportedly an avid supporter of government having control over electricity supply.

Mantashe's ideas on energy provision reflect one aspect in which time seems to be catching up on ANC policy. As advocates of the so-called developmental state, the model of large-scale, centralised generation of electricity is pinned under government's control.

This affords the government the power to reward those industries that dance to its tune with reliable and even subsidised electricity – on condition that it is available!

But incompetence due to cadre deployment often leads to serious setbacks, like the explosion at the Medupi power plant early last week. Simultaneously, new technology creates the opportunity for small-scale, decentralised power generation, which is more reliable and cheaper.

It is clear that the ANC itself is internally divided when it comes to handling the new developments in the area of energy. On the one hand, there are those who, like Ramaphosa's announcement indicates, see the new trend as an opportunity for improving economic growth. But on the other hand, there are those who see it as a threat to the centralised state and, therefore, want to prevent it by means of regulation.

In the FF Plus's view, the second group that thinks the emerging energy dispensation will undermine the centralised state is quite right and, as opposed to Mantashe, the party welcomes it. Thus, the FF Plus has endeavoured for many years to establish an energy dispensation that works according to market forces.

It means that not only the provision, but also the time of consumption will be determined by physical factors rather than political subservience.

In the meantime, ordinary consumers should not underestimate their power to influence the provision of energy. The self-provision of electricity is becoming a more and more affordable option. More importantly, it will liberate consumers of the limitations imposed on them by someone like Mantashe.

The ANC will soon learn that with energy, as with so many other things, there are certain developments that you simply cannot oppose. The FF Plus hopes that the ANC will realise this sooner rather than later.

 

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