South Africa’s President, Cyril Ramaphosa, has announced Dr Kgosientsho Ramokgopa as the new Minister in the Presidency for Electricity. Ramaphosa made the announcement of the newly established position on Monday evening, in a televised address to the nation.
According to Ramaphosa, Ramokgopa’s primary goal will be to drive the government’s programme of significantly reducing the “severity and frequency of load shedding as a matter of urgency” and to expedite government’s work to ensure the full implementation of the Energy Action Plan.
“To effectively oversee the electricity crisis response, the appointed Minister will have political responsibility, authority and control over all critical aspects of the Energy Action Plan. This will help to deal with the challenge of fragmentation of responsibility across various departments and Ministers which, while appropriate under normal circumstances, is not conducive to a crisis response.
“The Minister will be expected to facilitate the coordination of the numerous departments and entities involved in the crisis response, work with the Eskom leadership to turn around the performance of existing power stations, and accelerate the procurement of new generation capacity,” he said.
At the time of his appointment, Ramokgopa held the position of Head of the Investment and Infrastructure Office in the Presidency – a position he held since 2019.
Role of the Minister of Electricity
The new Minister of Electricity in the Presidency will be empowered to carry out his duties through the transfer of certain powers and functions from the President in terms of the Constitution.
Ramaphosa explained that the Minister of Electricity in the Presidency will also be empowered to carry out urgent actions needed to resolve the energy crisis through the recently gazetted National State of Disaster related to electricity regulations.
“The recently published disaster regulations empower the Minister of Electricity to issue directions to, among others, exclude critical facilities from load shedding where technically feasible; expedite various regulatory processes for energy projects; and enable Eskom to undertake critical maintenance more quickly and efficiently.
“The Minister in the Presidency for Electricity will liaise with other relevant Ministers to ensure coherence in the issuing of other directions during the national state of disaster,” he said.
Ramaphosa added that the new Minister will stay in office “for as long as it is necessary to resolve the electricity crisis”.
The SONA announcement
President Ramaphosa initially announced the creation of the portfolio for a Minister of Electricity in the Presidency during the State of the Nation Address (SONA) in Cape Town, last month.
At the time, the President said the new Minister would “assume full responsibility for overseeing all aspects of the electricity crisis response, including the work of the National Energy Crisis Committee”.
“The Minister will focus full-time and work with the Eskom board and management on ending load shedding and ensuring that the Energy Action Plan is implemented without delay,” he said during the SONA.
A week later, during his reply to Parliament’s debate on the SONA, President Ramaphosa said the new Minister will be driving the coordinated actions of the National Energy Crisis Committee to ensure that load shedding is addressed “as a matter of urgency”.
“The Minister of Electricity will be focused day in and day out only on addressing the load shedding crisis, working together with the management of Eskom and the board. The Minister will be leading the National Energy Crisis Committee and interacting with all other departments in the spirit of cooperative governance.
“With the focus that the Minister of Electricity will have on load shedding and the work that is being done by Eskom and the board, I do believe that we stand a much better chance to address this overriding challenge and crisis that our country faces,” he said.
At the same debate, President Ramaphosa emphasised that the energy crisis requires the “undivided attention of a political principal who does not need to split their time and energies among different important responsibilities”.
“This appointment will ensure that there is a Minister who is ultimately responsible for resolving load shedding and who is able to work with all fellow Cabinet ministers, departments and entities to do so,” he said.
A new portfolio
Before ascending to national government, Ramokgopa worked as the Member of Executive Committee (MEC) for Economic Development, Agriculture and Environment in Gauteng.
At local government level, Ramokgopa became one of the youngest mayors to head up a metropolitan municipality in South Africa when he took up the mayoral chains at the Tshwane municipality in 2010.
He held that position for at least five years.
Ramokgopa was also the CEO of both the Metropolitan Trading Company and the Johannesburg Market and was Deputy Chairperson of the board of Trade and Investment in Limpopo
He earned his Doctorate (PhD) in Public Affairs in 2019 with a dissertation titled: Leadership in establishing the Gauteng City-Region: the Case of the City of Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality.
He also holds a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering, a Master’s degree in Public Administration and a Master’s Degree in Business Leadership.