Communities surrounding Richards Bay came in droves in support of the Karpowership SA, project which has promised to prioritise locals in employment opportunities.
Communities surrounding Richards Bay came in droves in support of the Karpowership SA, project which has promised to prioritise locals in employment opportunities.

Richards Bay groups pen letter to President Cyril Ramaphosa, asks him to intervene in Karpowership SA matter

By Gcwalisile Khanyile Time of article published Dec 3, 2021

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DURBAN - Communities in the Richards Bay area have penned an open letter to President Cyril Ramaphosa, requesting him to intervene in the Karpowership SA (KPSA) matter.

The letter, signed by the North Coast Workers Forum, the King Cetshwayo District Municipality Business Forum, the National Business Chamber, Nafcoc Richards Bay and the Eskhaleni Business Council, was sent to Ramaphosa earlier this week.

KPSA reached a preferred bidder status in the government’s Risk Mitigation Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (RMIPPPP) to provide 2 000MW of emergency power for 20 years, as one of the measures to alleviate the prolonged energy crisis in the country.

KPSA was to be responsible for three power-generation projects, in Coega, Richards Bay and Saldanha Bay, and promised to inject R18 billion in investment directly into local communities.

“As the community of Umhlathuze (Richards Bay) and surrounding areas, we saw it prudent to write to your office to register our concerns about what appears to us as economic sabotage against the SA government,” the letter read.

The communities urged the president to prioritise the RMIPPPP projects holistically and the KPSA issue specifically.

“The economic hardships of our people cannot be understated. Poverty and unemployment continue unabated, exacerbated by the rigours of inadequate infrastructure and escalating energy insecurity. The Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environmental Affairs (DFFE) bears the responsibility of balancing environmental dogmatism with economic pragmatism.”

It also stated that having engaged KPSA's leadership on the green lobby’s concerns, it was apparent to the communities that KPSA had submitted robust environmental impact assessments (EIA).

“In fact, we are unclear why the DFFE chose to reject the EIAs in their entirety as opposed to simply engaging the company on specific concerns, which are easily addressed. This would be standard practice and it is unusual and alarming that the department did not do so,” the letter read.

“Following numerous delays and a carefully orchestrated campaign by certain sections of the media and environmental lobby groups targeted at Karpowership SA, it is our view that KPSA have the advantage of providing almost immediate electricity, making them an excellent option to meet the supply gap in the short term compared to the years it takes to design, award, and commission other types of power-generation projects.”

Ramaphosa’s spokesperson, Tyrone Seale, confirmed receipt of the letter.

“The Presidency has noted the open letter and will process this matter through appropriate channels.”

“We might come with a decision in the end or refer the matters to the relevant departments,” Seale said.

It was also revealed in the letter that in addition to the much-needed job opportunities, the project would bring, within Richards Bay, R650 million dedicated specifically for socio-economic development initiatives in the area.

The letter read: “This will be in the form of local enterprise development, skills transfer, educational initiatives, supplier enhancement, community social investment, and preferential procurement in South Africa.”

The letter said the residents’ position was clear, and they condemned any form of corruption associated with the RMIPPPP or any other government initiative. They also pledged support for the law to take its course and that any legitimate legal claims be dealt with by the legal system.

Unemployed Richards Bay graduates who came in numbers to support Karpowership SA.

“However, frivolous and protracted challenges around the exactness of the environmental assessments submitted by Karpowership SA will not be tolerated. It is critical to allow all the preferred bidders of the RMIPPPP tender (including Karpowership SA) to speedily provide electricity to South Africa.”

Ramaphosa was informed through the letter that billions of rand had been lost and would continue to be lost because of load shedding, and that “government programmes should not be held hostage by bitter losing bidders”.

“It is important to note the following two important facts: Karpowership projects, at 1 220 megawatts, would eliminate one full stage of load shedding. If the entire RMIPPPP project is online – at 2 000 megawatts – two stages of load shedding would be eliminated,” the letter read.

“With each delay that these projects incur, the knock-on effect for our workers and the plight of their families is intensified. We implore our government to forge ahead with the implementation to alleviate the strain on our national grid, and on our communities. The lives of our workers and our people must come first.

“As the community of uMhlathuze, we fully support the Integrated Resource Plan – the country’s energy roadmap towards 2030. This plan clearly spells out the role of gas in the energy mix as our country transitions towards a low carbon economy,” the letter read.

Wiseman Ndlovu of the North Coast Workers Forum, an organisation advocating for local job-seekers, said the current issues with electricity were harming the economy.

“Karpowership will be helpful in terms of employment. We are deeply hurt by the fact that the losing bidders want to halt the project,” Ndlovu said.

Environmental lobby groups and the DA have openly opposed Karpowership, saying it was not in the public interest.

Daily News

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