PARLIAMENT, November 2 – A nuclear deal for South Africa is still on the table, President Jacob Zuma told MPs on Thursday, despite Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba in his medium-term budget policy statement (MTBPS) saying the country could not afford it at the moment.
During his question-and-answer session in the National Assembly, Zuma was asked about Gigaba and newly appointed Energy MInister David Mahlobo possibly clashing, with the latter remarking after the MTBPS that government remained committed to expanding its nuclear energy programme.
The president said for Gigaba, who holds the country’s purse strings, it was a question of when South Africa would be in a financial position to acquire new nuclear capacity. The question of timing, did not mean the two ministers were clashing, said Zuma.
“You can’t say if they speak about timing, say they are disagreeing,” he said.
“We know what we are doing. We have a policy of mixed energy which includes nuclear. What the two ministers were talking about, they were not saying we change policy. They were talking about how do we implement this particular decision.”
South Africa was planning to add 9,600 megawatts of electricity to the grid through nuclear plants, despite pushback from opposition parties and civil society.
President Jacob Zuma on Thursday, told Parliament he would establish a judicial commission of inquiry into allegations of state capture as soon as a ruling has been handed down on his court challenge of former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s report on the funnelling of public funds to politically connected individuals.
Zuma is challenging Madonsela’s directive that he set up a commission of inquiry, to be headed by a judge appointed by Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng.
His lawyers have told the Pretoria High Court that Madonsela’s remedial action must be set aside as she did not have the power to order the president to institute a judicial inquiry.
“We are waiting for the judgment,” Zuma said while answering a question from Congress of the People MP Deirdre Carter in the National Assembly.
He claimed that “at one point” he had wanted to go ahead and establish the commission of inquiry but that his lawyers told him he could not, as the matter was sub judice.
“If the matter is in court, the same matter, the state capture report, I could not establish a commission of the same thing. Lawyers say it is a matter that is sub judice, heh. You want me to break the law? While the matter is in court , I establish a parallel process?” he added.
“I wanted to do that earlier than anything else and I am ready, after the judgment I am going to establish it immediately. It is coming my dear, don’t worry.”
Zuma said his critics were wrong to say that he had failed to act on Madonsela’s report, titled “State of Capture”, that detailed suspect dealings between public companies and the business of the Gupta family.
“I then said the remedial action of the Public Protector was unconstitutional that I had to undertake and I took the report for the review, so I never sat and did nothing. I took action to review the report. I could not push the dates of court, that is out of my responsibility.”
He then threatened that a commission would not spare the political opposition.
“There had been too much talk about corruption, even those who are most corrupt they point the finger at the other. Corruption started long before 1994 on the wealth of the state, on the property of the state, so those who are calling for it are going to regret.”
Despite calls by civil society and opposition parties for the axing of Social Development Minister, Bathabile Dlamini, President Jacob Zuma on Thursday said she would stay put.
Answering questions in the National Assembly, Zuma said the Constitutional Court gave Dlamini an order to solve the problem of replacing Cash Paymaster Services, who’s contract to provide grants to around 12 million beneficiaries was declared invalid by the court, with a new service provider.
Zuma said this was why he could not replace Dlamini.
“Minister Dlamini is dealing with the problem of solving the problem that emerged and we have a committee…that has discussed the solution and we are finding a solution. That is a matter we are dealing with,” said Zuma.
Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane objected to Zuma blaming apartheid for Dlamini’s failures, asking why Zuma did not fire her during several cabinet reshuffles over the past few years.
“What is not a problem of apartheid is Minister Bathabile Dlamini as minister of social development. She is leading from one crisis to the next and now there’s a looming crisis…Minister Dlamini is incompetent. She simply can’t do the job…,” said Maimane.
The president stuck to his guns, saying it was all connected to apartheid.
“The honourable member [Maimane], who was also oppressed, how can he say apartheid didn’t do damage. You say Bathabile is not a problem of apartheid. It’s a problem of what? You come with innuendo’s, I will answer with innuendos,” Zuma said.
Zuma, who chairs the inter-ministerial committee dealing with the matter, said Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba is intervening to help the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) and the SA Post Office (Sapo) reach a possible agreement.
Dlamini earlier in the week said the post office was only able to deliver on one of four key functions to provide welfare grants, that function being an intergrated payment system.
However, the post office contradicted Dlamini saying they were able to perform the other function which included the printing of beneficiary cards, providing a fully-fledged banking service and could use cash-in-transit companies to deliver grants to cash beneficiaries.
MPs were left angered and told Sassa to put on ice a tender that was meant to be published on Friday for a service provider who could deliver on the other three functions.
National Treasury is now doing an evaluation to determine the capacity of Sapo to take over the payment of welfare grants.
Earlier on, South African President Jacob Zuma on Thursday categorically denied that he received any payments from private individuals and companies since he assumed power in 2009, drawing heckling from opposition benches.
“I did not receive any payments from private individuals or companies during my tenure as President of the Republic of South Africa other than those disclosed or reported to the necessary authorities,” Zuma said in his last question-and-answer session for the year in the National Assembly.
Zuma was responding to a question from Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane who asked the president about claims in veteran journalist Jacque Pauw’s new book “The President’s Keepers” that Zuma was on the payroll of Royal Security and received a salary of R1 million in the first months of his presidency.
Maimane tried to push Zuma, saying: “With all sincerity we don’t believe you.”
Zuma would not budge, hinting that the claims in the book were mere rumours.
“I have given a very categorical answer to the question and secondly there are many books that have talked about Jacob Zuma in this country and saying all speculations and rumours, etc. I don’t think my job is to answer books. I’ve given the answer.”
– African News Agency (ANA)