On board: The swearing in of Energy Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi, right, in Parliament in March. She says the new agreements will be signed with nuclear vendors but she does not want to find herself in court every day. Picture: GCIS
On board: The swearing in of Energy Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi, right, in Parliament in March. She says the new agreements will be signed with nuclear vendors but she does not want to find herself in court every day. Picture: GCIS

Energy Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi stuck to her guns about the legality of her decision to second director-general Thabane Zulu as acting CEO of the Strategic Fuel Fund when the issue was raised in Parliament on Tuesday.

The controversy over Zulu’s secondment is similar to events in 2016 when former transport minister Dipuo Peters seconded her director-general, Collins Letsoalo, to the Passenger Rail Agency of SA to serve as acting group CEO — with disastrous consequences.

Kubayi also said the department planned to head to court to nullify its decision to sell fuel reserved at fire-sale rates. The fuel could still be recovered, the minister insisted.

However, Department of Energy acting director-general Tseliso Maqubela contradicted Kubayi and said there was no way to be sure whether or not the fuel had been sold on.

Kubayi was speaking to MPs on the portfolio committee on energy in a briefing about the department’s 2016-17 annual report. She faced tough questions about the fuel fund, the sale of the fuel stock and the state’s new nuclear build programme.

On Zulu, Kubayi insisted she had the power as minister to make the secondment and that the fuel fund board had been consulted and had approved the move. Allegations have surfaced that the fuel fund has taken on activities that differ wildly from its core mandate since Zulu had taken the helm.

Asked about the legality of Zulu’s secondment, Kubayi said: "I had requested, not ordered, the secondment. We might sit with different opinions on what the law means."

DA MP Gordon Mackay said the minister did not have the luxury of interpreting the law on her own terms and demanded documentary proof that she had consulted the fuel fund’s board and got its approval before seconding Zulu.

"The minister approves a recommendee from the board," said Mackay. "She cannot decide to second someone without a board recommendation. She can’t say that the board did not object and thereby her decision is valid."

Mackay later said he would write to committee chairman Fikile Majola asking that he seek a legal opinion on Zulu’s secondment to the fuel fund.

EFF MP Mzingisi Dlamini asked: "What is the plan to have the court nullify the sale of the stock? Have you spoken to the traders and offered payment?"

The stock was "still in the tanks and has not been lifted. We are sitting with money", Kubayi said. "It is a delicate process …. I would request that we be given the space to address that. The process of identifying people from companies has not been finalised yet."

magubanek@businesslive.co.za

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