Sunday Times E-Edition

The cost of the ANC saving its own skin is too high for SA


IWe. Won’t Pay. Chant that loud and long enough and the charlatans will go away

n the closest thing to unity of purpose in more than five years of Cyril Ramaphosa government, an actual joinedup, co-ordinated event is underway: a push in favour of docking Turkey’s Karpowerships in our ports is drowning out even the most fervent supporters in the ruling elite for renewable power, gas and even nuclear.

The Karpowerships were awarded a contract to supply 1,220MW of power for 20 years at a cost of about R220bn.

This, instantly to be forgotten, was the Risk Mitigation Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme; a total of 2,000MW over and above the renewable power auction windows which, by the time the RMIPPPP was conceived, were not doing too well and are still struggling under energy minister Gwede Mantashe’s malignant guidance.

The Karpowership deals have been knocked back by environmental appeals but the ANC leadership is beginning to stand up for them where once only Mantashe did. Ramaphosa, revising his position, has spoken up for them. So have finance minister Enoch Godongwana and electricity minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa. I even heard DA shadow energy minister Kevin Mileham giving them the nod the other day for short-term contracts.

For ANC types, the Karpowerships come into the picture because they understand, no matter how many times they may try to reassure us to the contrary, that load-shedding is with us for years. Just this week ANC secretary-general Fikile Mbalula was predicting the end of darkness by the end of the year.

That just isn’t going to happen and if he doesn’t know it, the ministers backing Karpowerships do. It’s their job to sound as if they know what they’re doing, but bitter experience tells us they don’t have a clue. Worse, because it will extend loadshedding, André de Ruyter’s new tell-all book, Truth To Power, tells us the new Eskom board, far from protecting executives from political interference, is going to facilitate it.

The new consensus is a measure of the rising panic in the Presidency and the ANC about the election next year. Some polls already have the party falling well below 50% of the vote and every hour of load-shedding makes that prospect more likely.

So the idea of floating up

Karpowerships into Saldanha,

Coega and Richards Bay harbours has a certain appeal. Instant light!

Except it’s not that easy. First, environmental groups, which

Mantashe dishonestly labels as

“foreign”, will continue to raise legal hurdles. Second, the 20-year contracts are outrageous. We have a three-year problem. Third, Eskom is in such trouble the Karpowerships, even combined, won’t end loadshedding. Fourth, with the spectacular depreciation of the rand the Karpowership costs will be eye-watering, no matter how much the contract period might be shortened.

No matter how tightly the politicians close their eyes and wish it would all go away, it won’t. Even if the Karpowership deals were signed tomorrow, and Transnet agreed (it has) and Eskom agreed (it hasn’t, but the chair will do as he’s told), getting them onto the Eskom grid would take a year.

Who buys the gas they burn, from whom, at what price? And there’s the small matter of who eats this time. The opportunities to inflate costs and put money into selected friendly pockets will be irresistible.

By then the election will have come and gone and they will be just another cost the ANC has hung around our necks. With any luck it won’t be the ANC that has to deal with the aftermath.

Opposition parties should declare now that they will not fund dirty contracts designed to save the ANC’s political skin. So if or when the ANC loses, the Karpowerships and other scroungers know their deal is with the ANC, not South Africa, and we won’t honour contracts they make now.

We. Won’t. Pay.

Chant that loud and long enough and the charlatans will go away. Whatever will stop load-shedding won’t happen overnight. So don’t listen to the lies. There are ways out of this. Yes, there is a role for gas. Total has huge reserves off the southern Cape. Eskom could buy power from a gas plant built by a private generator next to the Mozal aluminium plant in Maputo, metres from huge and usable power lines. No grid problems. Eskom could use Total’s gas instead of burning diesel in all its peaking plants.

And there is the small matter of an independent review, German-led, that the Treasury has assessing exactly what is wrong with Eskom’s plants. If Eskom is to offload R254bn of its debt onto the government, the Treasury wants the recommendations of the review implemented and the plants concessioned.

Sadly, no political donors to the ANC are enriched in any of these scenarios, so they may not happen soon. Eventually though, they will.

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