President Jacob Zuma has appointed former State Security Minister David Mahlobo, one of the president's allies, as Energy Minister. Photo: IOL

JOHANNESBURG - New Energy Minister, David Mahlobo has been moved to the crucial department in order to push for the controversial nuclear programme, economist Lumkile Mondi said. 

Mahlobo’s move from State Security to Energy was among changes announced by President Jacob Zuma in a shock Cabinet reshuffle. 

It was Zuma’s second reshuffle this year. Former Energy Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi who has been in the portfolio since March 31, has moved to the Department of Communications. 

“Kubayi was brought to the Department of Energy to complete certain tasks. Those were to ensure that the nuclear programme remains on the table. Secondly, it was to ensure that the sale of South Africa’s strategic fuel stocks is not investigated,” said Mondi. 

Just over a month into her role as Energy Minister, Kubayi in May admitted in Parliament that the fuel stocks had been sold. That was contrary to the her predecessor Tina Joemat-Pettersson's claims - also in Parliament - that the assets had been “rotated.” 

In her maiden budget vote speech in May 19, Kubayi zoomed into the governance problems at PetroSA and CEF, saying CEF would be restructured to ensure accountability and efficiency. 

One of the steps she took was to second the Department’s Director-General, Thabane Zulu to the Strategic Fuel Fund, a wholly-owned subsidiary of CEF. This, she said at the time, was to ensure the implementation of recommendations “in light of the report on the selling of strategic fuel reserves for the country.”

Mondi said Kubayi’s vigour to get to the bottom of the sale of the fuel stocks might have contributed to her removal. “She touched the snake’s tail,” he said. 

He said, following the Cape Town High Court’s decision in April that government’s plan to push for the implementation of the nuclear procurement programme, Kubayi was willing to ensure transparency in the programme. “That undermined her mandate,” he said. 

He said Mahlobo - who is considered a Zuma’s confidante and loyalist - would ensure the implementation of the nuclear programme. “He will do whatever the shadow state wants him to do. 

He is there to ensure that, in light of the uncertainty regarding the National Prosecuting Authority, the good times continue to roll on the back of South African resources,” said Mondi.

He was referring to last week’s decision by the Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein to dismiss an Zuma and the National Prosecuting Authority in the "spy tapes" saga.

Meanwhile, Business Unity South Africa (BUSA) also added its voice to the changes at the Energy Department, with the business grouping saying it was concerned about lack of stability in the energy sector. 

It pointed to the leadership instability at Eskom, controversies within the CEF Group including those pertaining to PetroSA and the Strategic Fuel Fund. 

“BUSA has consistently requested the Department of Energy and the Minister to ensure that the Integrated Energy Plan and Integrated Resource Plan take into full consideration business views that have been submitted. The change in Minister may well take the country back another step in this regard, thereby delaying the finalisation of a sustainable and affordable energy solution for the country,” BUSA  said in a  statement.