Energy Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson raised the ire of MPs in the portfolio committee of energy when she declined to discuss her department’s future plans following President Jacob Zuma’s State of the Nation address last Thursday night.
Joemat-Pettersson was supposed to tell parliament what the impact on her department would be after Zuma said South Africa’s nuclear build programme would roll out at a pace the country can afford.
Zuma made these comments after cabinet had approved a controversial nuclear programme late last year, despite signals from both former finance minister Nhlanhla Nene and the incumbent Pravin Gordhan that it might not be affordable. Analysts and economists estimate that such a programme could cost South Africa between R800bn and R1.6trn.
Joemat-Pettersson, who arrived an hour late for Tuesday morning’s meeting, said she was participating in the State of the Nation debate on Tuesday afternoon and MPs should wait for her speech before she would answer any questions. “I’m speaking in the National Assembly during the SONA debate. MPs will be in a better position to discuss the debate when we meet next Tuesday.”
Democratic Alliance MP Gordon Mackay called her behaviour a “disappointment”. “This was basically a meeting about a meeting. We’re wasting time and money, because the minister basically came here to tell us she’s not saying anything.”
Mzingisi Dlamini from the Economic Freedom Fighters agreed. “There was in fact no meeting,” he said.
Fikile Zachariah Majola, chairperson of the portfolio committee on energy, adjourned the meeting, promising fellow MPs that a more fruitful discussion would take place next week.