New Energy Minister David Mahlobo, one of President Jacob Zuma’s closest allies, has given assurances that there will be no corrupt intentions behind government’s controversial nuclear build programme, which is estimated to cost taxpayers a massive 1 trillion rand.
This after Zuma on Tuesday reshuffled his Cabinet for the 11th time since taking office in 2009, to widespread criticism from opposition parties, civil society organisations and the ANC’s own tripartite alliance partners, who have described Zuma’s actions as having nothing to do with strengthening the capacity of the state, but an attempt to revive plans to build new nuclear power plants, as well as to get rid of his detractors in government ahead of the ANC’s national conference in December.
“We promise that there is going to be good governance, accountability, and issues of affordability will be taken into consideration. Including the environment and the scale this is going to be done,” Mahlobo told Talk Radio 702 on Wednesday morning.
“This government has been clear on what is its policy position. I will not speculate about what other people have said. I just came into an office, and I need to sit down and get a full briefing,” he added.
Mahlobo warned against speculation surrounding his appointment to the critical energy department, saying Russia should not be singled out as the only country bidding to build the new nuclear power plants.
“Remember it was not only the Russians who put in their request for information. Why are you not mentioning the British, French, Chinese and Canadians? There are many of these countries,” he said
Earlier this year in April, the Western Cape High Court ruled that the nuclear procurement processes initiated by government were unlawful and should be set aside, putting the brakes on the controversial programme.
‘We will not be reckless’
Mahlobo said the sustainability of nuclear energy and its affordability were very important to government.
“We will not be reckless, but let’s not actually be bulldozed or threatened that we should not do the thing [build new nuclear power plants] to ensure that this country continues to have the security of supply of energy, we will ensure it is sustainable to ensure there is economic growth,” he said.
Mahlobo said his mandate was “very clear” to ensure that energy – as a critical component espoused in the National Development Plan (NDP) – was a catalyst for economic grow and job creation in the country.
“If you look at all these big countries and economies, energy is the biggest input,” he said.
“We need to ensure that there is security of energy in this country. Whether it is petroleum, electricity, gas or nuclear to ensure that it’s sustainable because if this economy is going to perform at a higher level, we have to ensure that we create those enabling conditions.”
Does SA need nuclear power?
Mahlobo said the question of whether South Africa needed nuclear energy as part of its energy mix was immaterial.
“It is not a question of whether we need nuclear power or not, South Africa in terms of its policy position is already using an energy mix. We should not create a myth as if South Africa does not have nuclear energy.
“We have nuclear energy currently in Koeberg [Power Station]. Nuclear is not only used for those aspects of electricity, but we have a facility in Pretoria Pelindaba. We are actually leading in terms of using nuclear isotopes so that we are able to do advancements in terms of human sciences and contribution to health. We are actually among the top six in the world,” he said.