Gwede Mantashe: Bruised, but never defeated

The mineral resources and energy minister may well be able to shrug off any apparent embarrassment that President Cyril Ramaphosa’s decision on power generation caused, and continue to exert his strong influence on our politics for some time to come.

Over the past 15 years, Gwede Mantashe has been one of SA’s most influential figures. However, last week he appeared to suffer the embarrassment of having his arm “twisted” in public to increase private companies’ cap for embedded generation to 100MW, 10 times his preferred figure.

But Mantashe has shown over the years that he is an astute, cunning and strategic politician. The mineral resources and energy minister (and the ANC chair) may well be able to shrug off any apparent embarrassment that President Cyril Ramaphosa’s decision caused, and continue to exert his strong influence on our politics for some time to come.

There are also many factors that may mean it’s too soon to claim that there will now be a wholesale change in the energy sector.

Before last week’s announcement, Mantashe had been vociferous in his opposition to raising the limit of “embedded generation” to above 10MW. (Embedded generation is where a company, for example a mine, has to apply for a licence from the regulator, Nersa, to produce electricity for its own use, and to sell on some of the power that it does not use, through the grid.)

Mantashe had told the Sunday Times that, “They [business] want an unlimited amount to trade with energy, and that is going to cause chaos. We will not be able to quantify the impact accurately. You can’t have that; it’s not happening in any society.”

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