In his budget vote speech tomorrow, Minister Gwede Mantashe must explain why hydropower from the tainted Inga 3 hydroelectric dam project continues to threaten the stability of South Africa’s energy and economic future.
At a time when President Ramaphosa is announcing massive bailouts for embattled Eskom, it is inexcusable that South Africa remains unjustifiably committed to 2500MW of hydropower from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in its IRP. The Inga 3 megaproject in the DRC has been flawed from the outset - marred by political interference, protracted delays, governance failures and human rights abuses.
In fact, in November 2018, Parliament itself recommended that the Inga project was not worth including in the IRP due to excessive costs and the uncertainty about its viability.
Under the Grand Inga Treaty concluded with the DRC, South Africa has committed itself to finance the $4 billion Inga 3 transmission line project. The Inga 3 project will cost cash-strapped South African consumers R4.3 billion per year according to researchers from the University of California. And there is no guarantee that the power will flow on schedule, or at all: the project was expected to begin producing power in 2020/2021, but this has already been pushed out to 2024 or even 2025.
South Africa looks certain to lose more than just the fiscal obligations our government has committed to this flawed megaproject. South Africans will forgo critical opportunities that will have immeasurable consequences for our energy future. These will start – but not end – with the many thousands of Eskom workers who face looming retrenchments. Not only will jobs be lost, but the opportunities to grow skills and expertise towards creating a sustainable and local renewable energy sector will vanish.
The feasibility of hydropower as a source of cheap, reliable and responsible power is being questioned across the continent. Zimbabwe and Zambia have recently had to cut output from the Kariba hydropower dam, while just last week Zambia halted plans for the construction of a hydropower dam on the Luangwa River after almost 200,000 people signed a petition calling for the river to be legally protected from the threat posed by dams, deforestation and unsustainable agriculture.
Inga 3 carries an indefensible cost to the people of South Africa – and the DRC. South Africa’s support for the Inga 3 fails to meet the imperative of responsible, sustainable development across Africa. It will not alleviate South Africa’s energy supply constraints, and has no place in South Africa’s energy future.
South Africa’s dwindling economic growth hopes demand cheap, plentiful and reliable local power – not expensive, uncertain and foreign imports.
Minister Mantashe has an opportunity tomorrow to formally exclude Inga 3’s astronomical costs and unreliable supply from our over-stretched fiscus. He must take it.
Issued by International Rivers