Remember the last time the Ramaphosa administration called a National State of Disaster? Yes, it was 2020 and it was in response to the threat of Covid-19. At the time Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs was appointed as head of the National Disaster Management Centre tasked with the disaster mitigation.
The ANC national executive committee (NEC) members who attended the two-day lekgotla last weekend urged party president (and South African president) Cyril Ramaphosa to declare a State of Disaster in response to the country’s deepening electricity crisis.
This time around, all signs point to Minister of Minerals, Resources and Energy, Gwede Mantashe, as heading up the disaster management if Cyril decides to pull the State of Disaster trigger.
As we learnt in 2020, Cabinet can declare a state of disaster without the support of the Assembly or an Act of Parliament. And the president is in full support of the motion, saying that “A national state of disaster will enable us to have the instruments necessary to fully implement the challenges that our nation faces.”
The upside of a state of disaster is the reduction of red tape standing between the national power utility and acquiring extra generation capacity. But the obvious downside is that it may clear the runway for Manatshe’s Karpowerships masterplan.
Some quick calculations were floating all around social media and it seems like a raw deal.
KarpowerShips will cost R200bn over 20 years to provide 1200 MW.— Ben Pooler (@benpooler) January 31, 2023
Medupi was supposed to cost R80bn to produce 4800MW (4 x Karpowership output) – and we keep it for ever (50+years of service)
In reality, Medupi will probably cost closer to R150bn – still far cheaper than ships. pic.twitter.com/TSJZsc3I8f
As usual, this Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) article from 2021 resurfaced to underline that the money spent on power ships will only provide temporary relief of only about one stage of loadshedding.
Manatashe cites examples from Brazil and around Africa to illustrate the important role that the Turkish floating generators can play in the SA energy economy. Only problem is that those projects are all short-term contracts of around five years – SA’s contract, however, is pegged at 20 years.
The minister has offered a reduction to 10 years as a concession for the deal’s detractors.
While power ships have the potential to bring near instant relief to the severity of loadshedding – currently bouncing between Stage 5 and 6 – the reality is that the supply chains still need to be established.
The price of gas has also surged significantly since the project was first announced, which makes the previous cost analysis useless.
Our nation waits anxiously to see if a) Manatashe survives the cabinet reshuffle and b) Ramaphosa goes ahead with the national state of disaster declaration.