Cape Town – The Democratic Alliance (DA) says it is ready to interdict any attempt by Energy Minister David Mahlobo to force through a nuclear deal.
The party’s energy spokesperson Gordon Mackay said in a statement the DA will use “every legal and Parliamentary tool at its disposal” to ensure that South Africans won’t be “shackled” to the massive debt that will flow from an unaffordable and unnecessary nuclear deal, estimated at around R1trn.
City Press reported on Sunday that officials at the Energy Department have been forced to work overtime, including weekends, to complete the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) by November 14 – four weeks ahead of schedule.
The IRP, which will determine the energy mix the country needs, was expected to be finalised in February next year, but will now be finished in the next two weeks.
“We would have been talking February, but now we are talking November 14,” City Press quoted an unnamed source as saying.
The IRP would enable Mahlobo to make projections of the country’s future energy demands based on “empirical evidence”.
Khulu Phasiwe, Eskom spokesperson told Fin24 that Eskom will take its cue from the Department of Energy as the policymaker about the way forward for any energy needs. "The Department of Energy, once it is done with revising the IRP and related energy roadmap documents, will decide on the scale and pace of the energy mix requirements of the country. Eskom as an implementing agency of government, will duly execute any new energy plans as directed by government.”
Last week, Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba told City Press that nuclear energy was neither affordable for the sluggish economy, nor immediately necessary.
The stance was repeated by National Treasury deputy director general Michael Sachs who told Parliament on Friday that neither South Africa's budget nor the country can afford nuclear.
Sachs said National Treasury in 2015 already said 9.6GW of nuclear energy would have a negative effect on the total debt burden and the balance of payments.
"It would not be prudent to proceed with that prior to the stabilisation of national debt and that stabilisation has been pushed out. All I can say over medium term we haven’t allocated resources. Our view is that it's not affordable at present. I can’t give categorical commitments, but we don’t foresee it being affordable over the current medium term expenditure framework."
Mahlobo, however, who has been in his new job for just more than two weeks after three years as state security minister, has contradicted Gigaba and National Treasury about South Africa's pursuit of a nuclear build programme.
The new Energy Minister told members of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) on Wednesday November 1 that he does not give preference to “one energy source over another”, but that he needs to look after South Africa’s energy security.
“I’m not in the business of tenders, but to ensure we have energy security and I won’t be deterred,” he said at the time, adding that nuclear energy would be pursued at a "scale and pace" the country could afford.
Mahlobo was appointed Energy Minister early in October during a surprise Cabinet reshuffle, which some commentators took as a sign that SA wanted to fast-track its nuclear ambitions.
The DA’s Mackay said in his statement that “with each passing day”, it becomes clear that Mahlobo was appointed to make sure that the necessary nuclear deal would be pushed through.
“We will not allow Mahlobo to appease his friends, the Russians, (by pushing through nuclear) at the expense of millions of South Africans who are struggling to survive with no jobs in a flat economy.”
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