The revelation that Turkish company Karpowership offered to buy a game farm and donate it to Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife to pave the way for environmental approval for its power plant comes “straight out of the state capture handbook and is a shameless violation” of the law, says the DA, with the FF Plus labeling the offer as “another fox turn”.
RNews previously reported that Karpowership made the offer in exchange for Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife (formerly the provincial parks board), which manages protected areas in the northeastern parts of KwaZulu-Natal, not to object to its plan for a 450 megawatt, ship-mounted power plant at Richards Bay Harbour.
Since Karpowership SA was granted power generation licenses in 2021 to generate power at three locations in South Africa, the company has also faced numerous setbacks with growing opposition to the power generation plan.
The FF Plus says the most difficult hurdle for Karpowership to overcome is environmental approval.
“The company refers to it as biodiversity exchange.
“This seems highly inappropriate, as environmental clearance for the floating gas-fired power station in the ecologically vulnerable maritime environment of Richards Bay is the obstacle. To think that a game farm – which is by definition on land – can compensate for that, makes no ecological sense,” says Dr. Wynand Boshoff, the FF Plus’ spokesperson for mineral resources and energy.
He says the “incomprehensible part” of the offer is that both Karpowership and the government keep trying to push the deal through and it no longer meets the description “emergency power”. When the issue first came up in 2021, it was foreseen that power would already be delivered in August this year.
“In this time frame, ordinary South Africans – households and businesses – have already installed about 4 gigawatts of solar power. This is double the 2 gigawatts that all three Karpowership ships in Richards Bay, Ngqura and Saldanha Bay undertake to deliver.”
If permission were to be obtained even today, it would probably take another two years to adjust the network in such a way that the ships’ power can be delivered to consumers, says Boshoff.
“The extraordinarily high tariff and twenty-year contract that was envisioned was justified precisely by claiming that power ships would quickly alleviate the crisis.”
The FF Plus says that it is being asked what benefit the Karpowership agreement really brings, because it seems that it is not “really about the emergency supply of electricity”.
Minister must stand strong against ‘corporate extortion’
Kevin Mileham, the DA’s spokesperson for mineral resources and energy, called the offer “brazen bribery”.
The party also appealed to Barbara Creecy, Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and Environmental Affairs, to immediately suspend any further consideration of Karpowership’s application for environmental approval to moor its gas plant in Richards Bay.
“The open regard for Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife has tainted the application and made it unfit for further consideration,” says Mileham.
He says Karpowership’s “desperation” to get environmental approval at all costs exposes the company’s “willingness to break the law”.
“Creecy must not give in under any circumstances and must stand firm against corporate blackmail.”
The DA says the offer to buy a game farm for Ezemvelo with the clear intention of influencing Creecy’s decision on the environmental application is a possible breach of anti-corruption legislation.