The Portfolio Committee on Energy and the Select Committee on Economic and Business Development received a briefing, last week from the Department of Energy, on the treaty of the Grand Inga Hydropower Project between the Republic of South Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The Grand Inga Project is a multi-phase hydro power station to be built on the Congo River on the Inga site, with the potential to generate approximately 40 000MW. The Inga dams are located in the western DRC 50 km upstream of the mouth of the Congo River and about 225 km south west of Kinshasa.

Associated with the Grand Inga are transmission lines to evacuate power from the generators to the markets in the DRC and to export markets. It is envisaged that a new transmission line to South Africa will be associated with the first phase of the Grand Inga project.

The transmission line will probably go through Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana. The Committee welcomed the presentation from the Department of Energy and indicated that they (Committee) were excited by the prospect of the project which will generate clean energy for the country.

Political instability a concern

The Committee, however, noted with concerns the security and political instability in the DRC. The Committee questioned the funding of the project considering the financial situation the DRC faces.

Briefing the Committee, South African Ambassador to the DRC, Ntshikiwane Mashimbye said in order for the Committee to play an effective oversight role, the Committee needs the requisite education pertaining to the project and this can be achieved by an oversight visit to the DRC.

“This is a project that separates us as a generation that wants to change a continent to a different one,” said Mashimbye.

“When you deal with this matter you need to move from a historical and political obligation that our country, as last to be free, has to our continent as underpinned by our foreign policy, the political risks and so on. Those are things that we would need time, we are dealing with these matters in various forms these are not matters that are not in isolation. This is not even about electricity but this is about industrialisation of Africa, all conflicts will never come to an end until we have the requisite energy and industrialise the continent,” explained Mashimbye.

Deputy Minister for Energy, Thembisile Majola said that the questions raised should be seen in context of the role that South Africa has in the DRC. “We have lost lives in the DRC. We continue to be present to try and secure that country not because it’s a nice to do, but because we know that the day when the giant rises the continent will also rise”.

Due to time constraints questions ask by the members were not all answered but the department committed to responding through written correspondence. The Committee accepted the report on Grand Inga and the explanatory memorandum to the treaty on the Grand Inga and recommended that the National Assembly and National Council of Provinces ratify it.