Battle of ideology in energy crisis

Zuko Mndayi is a social activist.

Zuko Mndayi, Khayelitsha

Aged plant infrastructure, low quality coal, internal sabotage and years of mismanagement may very well be among reasons the country suffered the worst load shedding recently. But what will take us out?

The nexus of South Africa’s energy crisis lies in the existence of two extremes on discussions of energy future in South Africa. At face value these extremes may seem merely administrative and governance related, however they are ideological in nature.

The battle of the ideological direction of the energy future in South Africa plunges this country further into darkness such that no men, however qualified, would bring light any time soon.

On one hand, you have those who want South Africa’s energy provision in private hands. Citing clean energy as a necessary direction, even when the country is among the least contributors in carbon emission. Lobbying the country to abruptly abandon coal as its energy source. The grouping is heavily funded through investments and capitalist in nature, with its roots eminating from the Western countries. This grouping possess some form of state and political power through co-pted politicians who serve its interests in both corridors.

On the other, you have those arguing for a gradual energy transition that doesn’t overlook the impact on the society. Citing the socio-economic impact of the coal industry in many towns of the country. The grouping argues for the preservation of jobs and the local economy of the coal industry.

The former, due to its capitalist and typical privatisation approach, has no appetite in maintaining the efficiency of Eskom. Its interests are best served when the utility is incapable and have already advertised private entities as alternatives. To them a perception of Eskom’s incapacity must trigger public impatience and uproar, validating private sector as the best option.

While the latter, because it holds the country’s executive through occupying political offices, is duty bound to act and take decisions that are going to mitigate the impact of the transition on the public.

Settling this clearly ideological impasse is what will bring an end to the country’s energy crisis, nothing else.

The picket displayed at the 2023 Energy Indaba when the Minister of Energy was addressing is not something to overlook. It projects the impatience of those who stand to benefit should coal be abandoned in favour of renewables.

He has been identified, even by the renewables lobby within his own party, as a stumbling block in their agenda to crossover to clean energy and real financial rewards of that transition.

It is for this reason that the president could not implement a decision moving Eskom to the Department of Energy and Mineral Resources. Having him providing over Eskom would have delayed their process of collapsing the entity and ultimately privatising energy provision.

The unnecessary non-Ministerial Ministry of Electricity will not take us out of the darkness, at least not until the country solves this ideological uncertainty on the country’s energy future.

Without neither doubting Dr Kgosientso Ramokgopa’s decorated academic profile, belittling his knowledge nor being untrusting of his ability, he will not take the country out of darkness. No one will.

The main issue is the 6th administration’s intention with energy provision in the country in general. When one observes its direction, its intended to strip Eskom of its monopoly in the sector and bring in private players. This is a project the president and all those he has appointed previously confessed to be championing without contradiction.