2008: When SA’s Electricity crisis originally began: Mbeki’s power shedding

Original Post Date: 2008-04-20 Time: 00:00:00 Posted By: Jan

By Chiara Carter

Rather than being a lame duck president, Thabo Mbeki increasingly resembles yesterday’s man.

This week it became clearer than ever that whatever the spin on a good relationship between the ANC and the Mbeki government, the reality is that the lines from ANC Head Quaters Luthuli House and the Union Buildings diverge on several key issues.

And it is not over the vexing situation in Zimbabwe alone that the post-Polokwane ANC leadership is speaking out – often in ways that tap into popular sentiment – leaving the government scrabbling to regain ground.

There’s the electricity crisis, spiralling food prices and crime.

ANC leaders this week also slammed the government over tardiness in tabling a Bill that would get rid of the Scorpions.

Mbeki apparently has dug in his heels over appointing ANC Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe to his cabinet.

One of his loyalists in cabinet is said to have been loath to brief the new ANC Working Committee.

The ANC has been left seeking a solution to the question of the SABC board, where its allies want to see worker representation. ANC MPs themselves were unhappy with the composition of the board that was appointed by Mbeki shortly after his defeat at the landmark Polokwane national conference.

Around that time, there was much debate abut how two centres of power would function.

Now, four months down the line, it seems more a case of power ebbing rapidly away from Mbeki to Luthuli House.

At home and abroad, influential figures are keen to meet and get to know the new ANC leadership, even though the old guard remains in government office.

Indeed, some analysts, such as Xolela Mangcu, have suggested it is time for Mbeki to bow out. However, few in the ANC are keen for such precipitous action.

Successors

Those in the Mbeki camp need to tidy their desks, so to speak, sort out their futures and their legacy – and even leave some “scorched earth” for their unwelcome successors in some cases.

The new leadership is still settling in and jostling for position, unready to face too much media scrutiny, let alone take up the reins of governance.

So the status quo remains, with the president staying in office and his party pushing more strident popular lines.

In an interview last month ANC President Jacob Zuma said there was no problem in his relationship with Mbeki and that they continued to work together.

He also said the government was working well with the ANC.

The same was asserted by ANC Secretary-General Gwede Mantashe who, in an article to mark 100 days in office, said the ANC’s constitutional structures had provided direction to party members in government, “without the party having to resort to micromanagement”.

As in the past, deployees in the government have looked to the structures of the organisation for direction, and have accounted to them on their progress.

But the Zimbabwe issue has been a prism showing the deep differences in approach – to some extent inevitable given that the constraints of a government differ from those of a political party.

There is now speculation that Mbeki’s antipathy to loud diplomacy might entrench him as a lame duck in the world’s eyes and even place in jeopardy his epitaph as the architect of the African Renaissance, the world statesman who carefully advanced good governance in Africa.

This weekend, opposition leader Helen Zille went so far as to say that this was “the lowest ebb of Mbeki’s tenure” and that the image of Mbeki clasping Mugabe’s hand on the eve of the SADC meeting last weekend, “the denial and do-nothingism they symbolised”, would be a “defining image” of the Mbeki presidency.

The ANC has been at pains to acknowledge that Mbeki needs to be “neutral” in his capacity as leader of the African Union-mandated mediation effort by the Southern African Development Community on Zimbabwe.

But the fact is that the party has sounded a whole lot more in touch with the dire post-election situation in Zimbabwe than the government.

Then there’s electricity. The ANC and its allies are concerned at Eskom’s demand for a tariff hike, a move that is backed by minister Alec Erwin and others in government.

The party wants to meet the energy ministers, Erwin and Buyelwa Sonjica.

But Engineering News’s Terence Creamer points out that cabinet appears to have given the cold shoulder to Luthuli House’s call for consultation on the tariff hike request.

ANC treasurer general Mathew Phosa earlier this week revealed that the party had written to Erwin requesting “proper consultations” and for the process to be halted.

Opinions

But on Thursday, government spokesperson Themba Maseko indicated that the cabinet felt the national electricity regulator (Nersa’s) public participation process was sufficient and that the ANC and other parties were being encouraged to express their opinions to the regulator.

The ANC also called on the Competition Commission to intensify its investigations into the causes of high food prices and mooted an urgent meeting to discuss ways of minimising the effect of such prices on the poor.

Its ally, Cosatu, is protesting against rising food prices and wants a reduction in the price of bread and other basic commodities.

Maseko this week said government was not planning to introduce new laws to curb price fixing in the food industry.

Source: http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?art_id=vn20080420091122675C737689

Source: http://archive.africancrisis.info/?p=25597

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