Energy issues ignite strong words in Parliament
The Energy Minister wants a new oil refinery and new nuclear agreements; the DA wants an inquiry into PetroSA, and the ‘illegal’ sale of strategic fuel stocks
Cape Town — Energy Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi wants the government to invest in a new oil refinery. In her maiden budget vote speech in the National Assembly on Friday, she said she would approach Cabinet with a proposal for an investment in a new refinery in the third quarter of this financial year.
She said it was not in the interest of SA’s energy security that it was highly dependent on the import of refined oil and told MPs that a public private-partnership for the investment was the preferred option, with the private sector partner being a crude oil operator.
The refinery would be majority South African-owned and would involved black shareholders.
At a media briefing after her speech, Deputy Minister of Energy Thembi Majola said the department realised there was a global glut of refined oil and overcapacity at present. However she noted that the government spent a lot in terms of foreign exchange on refined oil purchases. There were also questions of sovereignty and security of supply.
With regard to the Western Cape High Court judgment which declared the inter-governmental nuclear co-operation agreements — including with Russia — unlawful, Kubayi said the government will sign new agreements with these governments. All determinations issued for the nuclear procurement programme — also declared unlawful by the court — will be reviewed.
She said the Central Energy Fund will be restructured this financial year to make it more transparent and accountable. It will incorporate the office responsible for independent power producers.
The state-owned African Exploration and Mining Finance Corporation will be transferred to the Department of Mineral Resources.
In his speech, DA energy spokesman Gordon Mackay called for an urgent parliamentary inquiry into the directors and board of PetroSA, which he said faced the real possibility of collapse once the feedstock for the gas to fuel its plant at Mossel Bay ran out.
There have been media reports that PetroSA plans to seek business rescue, although the company denies this.
Mackay said Treasury would have to fork out about R20bn if the company failed and warned that if energy committee chairperson Fikile Majola did not agree to an inquiry, the DA would take the matter on review by the courts.
With regard to the Strategic Fuel Fund and its sale of SA’s strategic fuel stocks, Mackay said the DA believed the Department of Energy "wilfully misled" Parliament that it was just a stock rotation. He said the DA planned to formulate allegations about the issue so it could be investigated by the Public Service Commission and Parliament.
The party is also taking legal advice on the possibility of seeking a declaratory order from the court to have the sale — which was not approved by Treasury, as required, and was in violation of the Public Finance Management Act — declared illegal.
Turning to the nuclear deal, Mackay said the DA planned to make an application in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act to obtain all government and Treasury studies on the feasibility and costs associated with the proposed nuclear deal.