Cabinet revives Energy War Room led by Mabuza, but postpones e-tolls decision

Jackson Mthembu. Image credit: Twitter/Jackson Mthembu

The Cabinet has decided to “resuscitate” the Energy War Room “to deal with any challenges to our energy supply in the country.”

Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu announced the decision during a media briefing on Monday on the outcomes of Friday’s Cabinet meeting.

Deputy President David Mabuza will lead the Energy War Room. Its members include Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan, Finance Minister Tito Mboweni, and Minerals and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe.

In 2014, former President Jacob Zuma appointed President Cyril Ramaphosa, who was Deputy President at the time, to lead the Eskom War Room.

However, Ramaphosa told Parliament earlier this year that he asked Zuma to close it down in 2015 because he could not “take effective decisions.” He therefore recommended the appointment of a permanent Eskom CEO. Brian Molefe was appointed shortly afterwards.

Earlier start date for Andre de Ruyter

The Cabinet also mandated Gordhan to “negotiate” with newly appointed Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter to start his duties earlier than 15 January.

This is apparently in response to Eskom’s latest challenges that resulted in an unprecedented stage 6 load shedding last week.

Mthembu said, “Mr de Ruyter ,together with his management team, will immediately deal with the concerning issues of governance, lack of financial management as well as stabilise the operations of Eskom.

“This includes dealing with the huge backlog of maintenance of the ageing fleet of their power stations and the structural defects of Medupi and Kusile power stations.”

No decision on e-tolls

However, the Cabinet deferred a final decision on the Gauteng e-tolls to the New Year after “noting” recommendations contained in a report by Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula.

Earlier this year, Ramaphosa mandated Mbalula, Gauteng Premier David Makhura, and Mboweni to submit a report on the e-tolls impasse and suggest a way forward.

Mthembu said, “Whilst the matters were discussed, there was no finality reached by Cabinet. Definitely, Cabinet will reach finality on this matter in its meeting in the New Year.”

The African National Congress (ANC) in Gauteng, which is led by Makhura, is adamant that the e-tolls must be scrapped.

Civil society organisations such as Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) have also spoken out against e-tolls.

However, Mboweni has always insisted that the principle of “user pays” must be upheld to avert a potential credit ratings downgrade.

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