President Cyril Ramaphosa is likely to put South Africans out of their misery any day and announce who the new electricity minister is when he reveals his new cabinet.
The position, made public by Ramaphosa during his seventh State of the Nation Address (Sona), has had Mzansi guessing who it could be. Whoever it is, farmers and organised agriculture have a to-do list for the new appointee.
Farmers share their woes
Founder of Umgibe Farming Organics and Training Institute in KwaZulu-Natal, Nonhlanhla Joye, is concerned that the minister appointed to this portfolio may not understand what is at stake for farmers if power cuts continue at the rate that they have.
Joye, who experienced a tragic incident when 150 chickens died because of load shedding, has serious doubts about the minister.
“Chickens are dying in numbers and what is worse is that we still lose them when we try to put them in the cold room because of Eskom. Will the minister understand the role that farmers play in putting food on everyone’s table?” she said.
Livelihoods on the line
She told Food For Mzansi that 46 casual jobs were on the line because of the nightmare Eskom was putting her operations under.
“When you deal with food it is also about people’s livelihoods, it is about jobs. If chickens die, people will lose their jobs and the whole value chain gets affected,” she said.
Joye hopes the appointed minister exempts food businesses from load shedding.
“We have lost a lot of money because of food spoilage; poultry and fresh vegetables are crucial to our food security.”
Presidential spokesperson Vincent Magwenya told the media during a briefing on Wednesday that the reshuffle of the cabinet was going to take place in a matter of days.
“There are vacancies in the cabinet. We also now have a vacancy in the role of deputy president, so there is a sense of urgency for the president to fill those vacancies as soon as possible,” he said.
Free State Agriculture operations manager, Dr Jack Armour, said as organised agriculture they did not know which politicians to trust anymore.
Armour said until the South African government gain the trust of farmers, they would continue efforts in getting farmers off the grid.
“To gain our trust, the new minister, through strong leadership, supported by all spheres of government and unions, needs to expose and stop all corruption at Eskom.
“[He or she must] be extremely open and transparent about funds made available to South Africa for the just energy transition. Cut all the unnecessary regulatory red tape aimed at centralising state control over the energy sector,” Armour said.
Armour expects a firmer grip on municipalities who fail to pay and legal action against those who blatantly squander money from the minister.
“The minister needs to show clear control and decisive leadership over internal political factions and union influence in driving a plan that is truly in the best interest of all South Africans. And that can regain investor confidence in good governance and energy security,” he added.
Furthermore, a collaboration between departments to ensure harsher prison sentences relating to theft and vandalism of national electricity infrastructure must be ensured.
Is a new minister really necessary?
The outgoing chief executive of Agri SA, Christo van der Rheede, questioned the need for another minister to deal with electricity while there were other departments who have responsibility over Eskom.
“We have the departments of energy, public enterprises, treasury, and cooperative governance. You already have four entities very much involved in the day-to-day either on the governance or operational side of Eskom. The question is do we really need another minister?
“What powers will this minister have, we have already seen various departments that are involved in Eskom, do not see eye to eye and there are huge differences in terms of their approach and what needs to be done to solve Eskom’s challenges, “ he pointed out.
Van der Rheede said the new minister whose only focus is on the fortunes of Eskom, should take into consideration the complexities in terms of laws that need to be adhered to.
“One would like to see a top class CEO that is an electrical engineer being appointed, someone who understands big operations that Eskom consist of to ensure that is managed properly.
“Someone with good project management skills, that is someone that one could rather appoint at Eskom itself than to worry about a minister of electricity,” Van der Rheede said.
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