Energy Indaba: Slow start as Zuma touts radical economic transformation

Johannesburg - The government's hastily arranged Energy Indaba has not yet proposed any fundamental policy shifts, with keynote speaker President Jacob Zuma urging delegates to brainstorm on how the energy sector can be used as a catalyst to reignite the economy and improve the quality of life of South Africans.

But he used his address as a platform to take ownership of the radical economic transformation narrative.

Energy Minister David Mahlobo, who has been driving the indaba, told its plenary that the president had requested the Energy Indaba take place.

It is being hosted at the Gallagher Convention Centre in Midrand over the next two days. 

"I was honoured to be tasked by the president under instruction to convene this Energy Indaba," said Mahlobo, who was appointed as the new energy minister in October.  

Radical economic transformation as ANC policy

Zuma spoke out against the claim that disgraced UK public relations firm Bell Pottinger had invented the term radical economic transformation.

"The ANC adopted radical socio-economic transformation as its policy at the 53rd national conference in Mangaung in 2012 and it automatically became government policy," he said.

"We therefore reject the incorrect and patronising assertions by some sections of society, that the radical economic transformation policy was developed by a company from London for the black people of South Africa. The policy originated from the ANC."

Commenting on the upcoming ANC conference, Zuma said a united and strong ANC is good for business and good for the country.

"We know that there is a lot of anxiety in the business community at this time, about what will transpire at the conference and the impact on the country’s future."

He said the party's national executive committee is united in the resolve to ensure a successful, peaceful and orderly conference. "I met with the seven ANC presidential hopefuls recently and we agreed on the need to ensure unity, order and cohesion at the conference." 

No nuclear news

Zuma kept his cards close to his chest on nuclear plans, merely saying that if SA has the raw material, it must also have an opportunity to benefit from it. 

Nuclear critics have argued that the indaba would be used as a smokescreen to push through a nuclear build programme,  but neither Mahlobo nor Zuma had much to say about the matter, given the expectations that the conference would provide more details.

The department of energy had hastily arranged the indaba under the theme “Energy Sector Stimulating Economic Growth, Development and Job Creation”.

After the plenary session ends, the indaba will break up into commissions where nuclear, gas, coal, renewable energy and liquid fuels will be discussed separately. 

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