Mantashe ‘ready for a fight’

Minister ‘won’t allow’ environmental groups to stop powerships




Arena Holdings PTY

Business Times

Minerals & energy minister Gwede Mantashe says the government is ready for a legal showdown with environmental groups as it forges ahead with a controversial plan to contract power ships to berth at the country’s main ports for 20 years to help end the blackouts wreaking havoc on the economy. The country had long allowed environmental groups to stymie development, but he was now determined to prevail, Mantashe told Business Times in Cape Town this week. “In South Africa we have done something very painful; where we have given environmentalists a veto power over development ... We are realising now there’s something wrong with that, environmentalists veto every development if they don’t like it. Therefore, gas-to-power is taken to court all the time. “We are battling with the exploration of gas and oil. We stay in court. But it is one process that we are prepared to engage in. We are going to endure. People can take us to court as many times as they can, we will continue with gas and petroleum exploration,” Mantashe said. Two other cabinet ministers whose responsibilities include political management of Eskom have come out in support of powerships to ward off load-shedding. It emerged this week that Turkish company Karpowership was in February granted permission by the department of transport to moor its ship-mounted power plants at the ports of Durban, Nqura and Saldanha. Environmental lobby groups have challenged the deal in various courts to prevent the emergency procurement of 2,000W from Karpowership, arguing that the vessels would cause huge damage to the marine ecology and fishing. They have also questioned the length of the contract. The South African rival bidder DNG Energy lost round one in court when it sought to overturn the deal on the basis that the contract had been secured unlawfully and irregularly. It alleged corruption involving government officials had led to it losing the deal to Karpowership, which supplies electricity from gas-fired plants on ships. The Organisation for Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) has also gone to court seeking to make public records of the deal. Karpowership has been unable to get environmental approval from the department of forestry, fisheries & the environment for its project. The department is reviewing its application for environmental authorisation to set up a 320MW plant at Saldanha. Two other applications have been rejected. On Friday, minister Barbara Creecy said her department would be objective in deciding on environmental authorisation for the ships. Speaking on the sidelines of the Enlit Africa Conference, Mantashe said South Africa needed the Karpowership technology to deal with load-shedding. He said the government had seen Karpowership at work in Ivory Coast, Brazil, Gabon, Ghana and Senegal. The department heard “recent noises” indicating that more South Africans were receptive to the idea of ship-mounted energy, he added. Speaking at the same conference, the minister in the Presidency responsible for electricity, Kgosientsho Ramokgopa, said