THERE was a time in our country, not so long ago, that the refusal by a minister to disclose information pertaining to organisations that stood to benefit over a trillion rands of tax payers’ money would have elicited the full wrath of our country’s protectors of democracy. OUTA, Right2Know, Helen Suzman Foundation, opposition parties, media and other civil society groups would have been up in arms, and rightfully so.
And yet Energy Minister Jeff Radebe’s refusal to disclose the names of the directors and shareholders of the 27 Independent Power Producers (IPPs) who have entered into multi-billion-rand agreements with government has been met with deafening silence. The minister says the department had a confidentiality undertaking where divulging specific information requires the consent of the companies.
His response is contained in a parliamentary question which was put to him by the EFF requesting him to give names of the renewable energy owners, their sub-contractors and directors.
The explanation that he would be breaching the confidentiality his department has with these organisations is problematic and is most probably unconstitutional. These licences would have been granted through public bids and the winning companies, their shareholders and directors must be in the public domain.
Radebe would know that accountability, transparency and openness, are the lifeline of a democratic state. He should know that transparency means government has an obligation to share information with us its citizens in order that we can hold him and his colleagues in government, accountable. These tenets are protected in the Constitution, which provides “that everyone has aright of access to any information held by the state and any information held by another person…”.
The Minister would know that much controversy surrounds these IPP agreements. Some sections of the society accuse President Cyril Ramaphosa of having pushed through the signings to benefit his former business associates and companies in which he was involved while others challenge the cost and argue that the country doesn’t need this electricity in the near future, as in over the next three to five years. While the presidency has denied the accusations, much speculation persists and the resistance by Radebe to disclose the owners of these companies does very little to quell the suspicion that the owners include the family of both the President and Minister. Radebe and Ramaphosa are brothers in law.
Many have argued that given South Africa’s surplus supply of electricity and the current low economic growth rate, the introduction of renewables in the energy mix would be economically and financially a costly and damaging decision. The decision would also have a detrimental effect on jobs.
The National Union of Mine Workers (NUMSA) and Transformation RSA recently lost a case in the Pretoria High Court which sought to stop Eskom from signing the 27 IPP agreements. Writing in Business Report, Rob Jeffery, an independent risk consultant, said the trade unions’ arguments against IPPs was a solid one, economically. https://www.iol.co.za/business-report/opinion/opinion-ipp-agreements-will-be-costly-for-sa-14375426
Twitter tried to ascertain from our doyens of democracy what their thoughts were regarding the ministers defiance, with no response to luke warm from Amabhungane’s Same Sole.
Response from Sam Sole of AmaBhungane
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Engineering News reported:
Radebe outlines additional cost of coal IPPs to consumers
Radebe “confirmed that electricity consumers will pay 1.9c/kWh more by 2030 on a projected electricity tariff of 119c/kWh to accommodate the two independent power producer (IPP) coal-fired power stations included in the draft 2018 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP 2018) – a cumulative R23-billion.
In a response to a question posed by outgoing Democratic Alliance Member of Parliament Gavin Davis, Radebe said the projects, which were procured in accordance with IRP 2010 and a Ministerial Determination published on December 21, 2012, were anticipated to begin producing electricity from 2023″.