Ours is not a learning government! You only have to look at how often our government repeats the mistake of ignoring the public’s constitutional right to be heard when it comes to multi-billion-rand projects. Instead of truly engaging, government choses to merely tick the ‘public engagement box’, largely ignoring input by experts and civil society. It happened again with the Karpowership deal, forcing us to take this to court.

OUTA has such serious concerns over the lack of proper public engagement around the granting of generation licences to Karpowership, a Turkish independent power producing (IPP) company, that we decided to approach the court to set this decision aside.  

The National Energy Regulator (NERSA) granted Karpowership three licences to  generate just over 1 200 MW of electricity to feed into South Africa’s strained energy grid. This despite the fact that OUTA and many other organisations and experts made submissions to NERSA opposing the application. 

When calling for public input, especially on complex matters such as new energy projects, road infrastructure financing or energy risk mitigation, civil society often goes to great lengths to compile research and gather professional input to inform Government’s decision-making process. Sadly, this input is more often than not ignored (as we have seen again with Karpowership) with little rational explanation or clarity as to how they arrived at their selected decisions.

Much can be said about the irrationality of NERSA’s decision to approve the Karpowership licence, like the fact that it lacked a host of required approvals (e.g from environmental and ports authorities) as well as power purchase and various other agreements. All of this, incidentally, are documents and paperwork required as per NERSA’s own rules, so one would assume that they would ensure strict adherence to this. Also take into account that NERSA granted the Turkish company a licence for 20 years for what is in fact a short-term risk mitigation project, aimed at strengthening South Africa’s electricity supply for the next two years as part of an emergency procurement programme. This contract will cost the country a projected minimum of R218 billion over two decades, making the decision nothing short of outrageous and irresponsible. Even more so in a country fraught with poverty, inequality and an overstretched tax-base. You can read more about our decision to challenge this deal in court here

We have seen this ‘ignorance-of-public-input’ movie many times before - be it on the costly failure of the Gauteng e-toll scheme, the half-baked and unconstitutional AARTO (licence demerit points) plan, or the unaffordable and unnecessary new nuclear power build decision. The State repeatedly behaves as if society’s input on these projects is meaningless and irrelevant, and while they fail to consider public interest, it is all too often the public who suffer the most under the irrational decisions or who have to pay the bills for the State’s costly mistakes. 

Fortunately, we have a strong judiciary that society can turn to – hence OUTA’s decision to approach the courts to review NERSA’s Karpowership decision. 

We don’t just take any matter to court. With limited resources and manpower constraints, costly litigation decisions at OUTA are reserved for those matters where the extent of negative impact on society is high, and more so when the stench of irrationality and corruption is strong. 

The Karpowership case is such a matter. 

Sadly, it is the type we never thought we would have to tackle, following the advent of Ramaphosa’s presidency in 2018. Clearly not enough has changed in the corridors of power with cabinet ministers unable to rid themselves of irrational influence and poor decision making that has little long-term benefit to the nation. Not a week goes by that we don’t hear of bad decisions that give rise to a decline in service delivery or rising national debt, be it with Prasa, Transnet, SASSA, the Sectoral Education and Training Authority (SETA), the National Lottery Commission and more. 

The list goes on. As does our work and determination to challenge this never-ending abuse of power. 

Our thanks again to the many people who have taken the time and effort to donate to OUTA each month, making our work possible. Please tell your friends about our work, and encourage them to join us in the fight for a better South Africa. 


Wayne Duvenage