Democratic Alliance criticises Karpowership SA’s plan to buy off KwaZulu-Natal’s custodian of nature

The Turkish company has offered Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife a hunting ranch in exchange for environmental approval for a project.

Alfie Shaw September 12 2023

The Democratic Alliance (DA), South Africa’s main opposition party, has criticised Karpowership’s offer of a game farm to KwaZulu-Natal’s official custodian of nature conservation. The offer, made to facilitate environmental approval for its gas-fired power plant, has been called “a brazen violation of the law” by the party. The provisional agreement involves the donation of a 1,784-hectare hunting ranch to ostensibly offset the expected negative impacts of its planned 450MW Richards Bay Internal Combustion Power Plant on marine life in the area.

Kevin Mileham, DA Shadow Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, has urged the African National Congress (ANC) to immediately reject Karpowership’s application, saying: “The open bribe to Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife has contaminated the application and rendered it unsuitable for further processing. The obvious desperation by Karpowership to obtain environmental approval at all costs has exposed their willingness to break South Africa’s laws to get their way.”

The construction of the Karpowership SA Internal Combustion Power Plant is expected to commence in 2025. Karpowership, a Turkish company, builds floating power plants that anchor in countries’ ports. The plants are gas-fired and produce electricity for whichever country’s grid they have signed an agreement with.

To alleviate electricity shortage problems, the ANC awarded a bid to Karpowership SA in 2020 for the generation of 1.22GW from its floating plants. Nevertheless, South Africa continues to suffer from loadshedding problems as state electricity provider Eskom struggles with large debts and alleged corruption. The ANC therefore welcomes additional supply provided by Karpowership SA. President Cyril Ramaposa said the 20-year contract would help ease the prolonged country-wide power shortage.

However, a think tank, Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse, suggests the amount supplied by Karpowership will be insufficient to end loadshedding, saying: “Even if Karpowership would hypothetically generate electricity tomorrow, there would still be a shortfall of around 4,000–5,000MW of electricity. Karpowership alone will not end loadshedding.” The think tank also raised concerns over lack of transparency in the awarding of generation licences to Karpowership.

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