Gwede Mantashe
Rainmakers & Potstirrers

Gwede Mantashe

Minister: Mineral Resources & Energy

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'You can’t rule out that some of the funding comes from the CIA and is deliberate to block development in a poor country like South Africa’

NEVER far from controversy, Gwede Mantashe made headlines by creating suspicion regarding the intentions of environmental activists and NGOs. Mantashe is a staunch supporter of coal and the exploration of oil and gas, but he went a step further by blatantly accusing civil organisations of deliberately blocking progress and development in South Africa. The attack on NGOs is most likely an attempt to distract from Mantashe’s dubious track record as political head of Mineral Resources and Energy. He has repeatedly commented on the imminence of new mining cadastre, but self-imposed deadlines have come and gone with depressing regularity.

A promise last year he was working on a new specialised policing aimed at cracking down on illegal mining has also come to naught. Meanwhile a confusing exploration strategy appears to insist on empowerment even though he promised not to do this. His department has also dragged its feet with acquiring new electricity generation capacity. With the exception of the first bidding round for 513MW of battery storage, there were no purchases until December. Then officials sprang into action. Out of the blue, there was an announcement South Africa will embark on a 2,500MW nuclear power-building programme. Two days later, his department announced purchases of solar and wind power, and battery storage capacity.

Mantashe also submitted to Cabinet the long-overdue Integrated Resource Plan, which will determine how much generation capacity is needed and by when. The crucial plan has been delayed since 2019. To what can we attribute this feverish activity? National elections, of course, due in May. The hope is that voters will forget that in 2023 there were 86% more blackouts than any other year.


Mantashe hails from Cala, a village in the Eastern Cape. A former miner and trade unionist, he rose to prominence in the ANC during the presidency of Jacob Zuma when he became the ruling party’s secretary general in 2007. Mantashe was instrumental in the election of Cyril Ramaphosa as head of the party – in 2017 and in 2022. He is considered influential and politically untouchable despite his obstructionist behaviour and poor performance as South Africa’s minerals and energy minister.

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