Energy minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson caused a stir on Tuesday when she tabled a document classified as secret at a portfolio committee meeting on energy.
The move, which was unannounced, was not on the agenda of the portfolio committee meeting.
Copies of the secret, 80-page document, introduced as the government’s so-called “5-point plan to solve our energy crisis”, were handed out to MPs, but not to members of the media, according to DA shadow deputy minister of energy Pieter van Dalen.
MPs had to return the document because of the “commercially sensitive” contents.
Van Dalen slammed Joemat-Pettersson’s behaviour, saying it was a unilateral attempt to turn an open parliamentary committee meeting into a secret chamber.
“The Minister went to great lengths to ensure secrecy when she unilaterally attempted to turn an open parliamentary committee into a secret chamber in which neither the media nor members of the public could remain,” he said in a statement on Tuesday evening.
The DA said it would submit an application, in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA), to gain access to the full document, following apparent futile attempts by Van Dalen to persuade Joemat-Pettersson to declassify the report.
Committee chairperson Fikile Majola told Netwerk24 the document was made available, but because of back and forth accusations between committee members it could not be discussed. They then agreed to discuss it another day.
“I do not know why the honorable (Pieter) Van Dalen had to run to the media. There was a secret document that the minister wanted to table, but members who serve on the committee, refused to discuss it.
“We agreed to discuss it at a later stage,” said Majola.
Van Dalen said the secrecy around energy security in South Africa cannot continue any longer.
“The DA is of the strong belief that South Africans need to be adequately informed as to the government’s plans to solve our energy crisis, which continues to kill our economy and shed jobs at an alarming rate.”