No minister, late paperwork, broken aircon for SA’s electricity crisis briefing

No minister, no deputy minister, no director general, late paperwork, and a broken air conditioning system marked the start on Tuesday of an energy department briefing on South Africa’s electricity crisis.

Opposition MPs serving on Parliament’s energy portfolio committee angrily objected to the absence of Energy Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson, but were told she was attending an “urgent” matter involving the Grand Inga Hydropower Project in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Department officials explained that acting director general Wolsey Barnard was accompanying the minister, while her deputy Thembisile Majola had “other prior commitments”.

MPs further objected to having only received a copy of the energy department’s presentation — on government’s planned interventions to resolve the crisis — scant hours before the briefing began.

Officials apologised, saying there had been “some glitches”.

Democratic Alliance MP Gordon Mackay called for the meeting to be postponed, as did his colleague Pieter van Dalen, but committee chairman Fikile Majola insisted it continue.

The meeting was already delayed after the about 60 MPs, officials, and journalists packed into the small, closed committee room waited to see if technicians could get the air conditioning working. They could not, and the meeting took place in sweltering heat.

The presentation, by senior energy department official Oompie Aphane, was not well received.

Described by Mackay as “quite underwhelming”, he said it was no wonder South Africans were worried about the electricity crisis.

“Every single action plan I’ve ever seen has been very clear on timelines and actions; there’s not a single timeline in this document… There’s nothing in this document that allays any of our nation’s fears about how this problem is going to be resolved.”

He said the department should be “appalled at itself” over the presentation it had made to MPs.

Inkatha Freedom Party MP Essie Esterhuizen said the document contained out-of-date figures.

“If you look at the presentation, it’s not one that was done yesterday. The figures are out of date.”

He called on Majola to ensure it was corrected.

Earlier, Aphane told the committee Eskom would lack peak-time and “mid merit” generating capacity for at least the next three years.

This was at a projected electricity-use growth rate of 1.3 percent a year.

According to the briefing document, the shortage this financial year totals 4800MW, and is forecast to be 3600MW next year, and 1000MW in 2017.

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No minister, late paperwork, broken aircon for SA’s electricity crisis briefing