Mineral resources department facing as many as 70 legal battles


The Department of Mineral Resources and Energy told Members of Parliament on Friday morning that the department as well as its entities could have as many as 70 ongoing and pending matters of litigation before the courts.

However, the department could only provide details on the litigation where the department directly was the applicant or respondent - meaning that it could not provide details on litigation affecting the Central Energy Fund (CEF) and Strategic Fuel Fund (SFF).

Mineral resources and energy director general Thabo Mokoena told Parliament's portfolio committee on mineral resources and energy that the department – along with its two predecessors, the Department of Mineral Resources and the Department of Energy – received nine judgments since January of 2018.

Nuclear board moves

Mokoena unpacked how former energy minister Jeff Radebe's decision to dissolve the South Africa Nuclear Energy Corporation board was challenged by former Necsa board chair Kelvin Kemm, suspended group CEO Phumzile Tshelane, and the former chair of the board's audit and compliance subcommittee, Pamela Bosman.

The North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria set aside the minister's decision to remove the Kemm and Tshelane in August. Necsa's new board appointments were not affected by the judgement.

"Two judgments deal with the (former) minister (Radebe's) removal of directors of the Necsa board, although the first judgment is in favour of the minister and determines his actions to be executive in nature. Later the Kemm judgement finds that the decision to remove a director was an administrative action," Mokoena said.

What about the oil reserves?

Committee member for the Democratic Alliance Kevin Mileham asked the department why they had not provided any details on the matter of the CEF and the SFF, to which senior legal officer Frans Nkosi said the matter was being dealt with directly by the affected entities, and not the department.

"It is correct that this matter is with the CEF and the SFF. If the matter needs to be reported, we would need to get some information. But it is not a matter that the department itself is dealing with. The matter is in court and the legal team has been established," said Nkosi.

In March, the portfolio committee on energy was briefed on the annual report of the CEF and its subsidiaries, which include national oil company Petro-SA and the SFF. The matter relates to former energy minister Tina Joematt-Pettersson's alleged role in the sale of oil reserves.

An investigation was launched into the sale of 10 million barrels of oil reserves by the SFF in 2015. The CEF filed a court application in 2018 with the Western Cape High Court to set aside the sale on the grounds that the disposal was unlawful, invalid and unconstitutional.

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