President Jacob Zuma answers some questions in Parliament. Picture: ESA ALEXANDER
President Jacob Zuma answers some questions in Parliament. Picture: ESA ALEXANDER

President Jacob Zuma insisted on Thursday that the government would pursue the nuclear build programme, saying its implementation was "just a question of timing".

During his final question-and-answer session for the year in the National Assembly, Zuma said government policy had not changed and nuclear was still part of the energy mix. The energy mix also includes hydro, solar, coal, wind and gas.

Zuma dodged many pointed questions from the opposition, which prompted the DA to stage a dramatic walkout towards the end of proceedings.

One of the questions that Zuma seemed enthusiastic to answer was related to nuclear energy and posed by DA leader Mmusi Maimane.

Energy Minister David Mahlobo and Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba have sent contradictory messages on the nuclear plan in recent weeks, with the former stating that nuclear was firmly part of SA’s energy mix.

However, in his maiden medium-term budget policy statement last week, Gigaba suggested that the country had neither planned for the spending on nuclear nor could the country afford it. It is estimated that the nuclear build programme could cost as much R1-trillion.

Zuma said that there was no contradiction and that the country would still pursue the nuclear build programme.

"There is a need for energy, we just came from a load-shedding situation … we are faced with many challenges including climate change and in the continent SA is the one that needs to reduce emissions [the most]," said Zuma.

"We know what we are doing. The energy policy includes nuclear … the question is how do we implement this decision … it’s a question of timing … it’s a question of when and how do we start."

Critics and opposition parties have suggested that Mahlobo’s recent appointment to the energy portfolio was a clear attempt by Zuma to push through the nuclear deal.

While he denied that he had received payments from private individuals and companies, saying the allegations were meant to undermine the ANC and his presidency, Zuma did not respond to Maimane’s question on tabling a declaration of interests.

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