Minister of Energy Jeff Radebe signed off R56bn worth of contracts on renewables. Photo: Keith Harkins

JOHANNESBURG – The Director-General in the Presidency Dr Cassius Lubisi muses over the Mahlabathini plains, the bread basket of South Africa, where black men and women worked the land and were productive in their own right before they were enslaved.

This nostalgic notion has played itself out whenever matters of agriculture and food production are discussed. It never progresses beyond nostalgia - this is when Lubisi at times shakes his head in disbelief. There are those now who constitute the nostalgia of the future, defining our characteristic feature of the malaise, of noisy diversity in counsel and command.

Our inability as a country to set our mind on first a clear end; second a detailed plan of the path to that end; third a detailed operational plan of implementation; fourth a detailed review; and fifth a detailed adaptation plan.

The National Development Plan (NDP) represented in good part the beginnings that would fix the malady, but even before it would see the light of day having been universally adopted by South Africa, though, the NDP suffers a number of setbacks and very little is said of it these days, as the rush for new terms become in vogue.

The key question in planning is predictability. Show me that which you say you will do first of all is doable, and prove up front that it will deliver the kind of results you say or argue are possible. Finally prove that this is the best outcome by showing the second and third best outcomes. To answer those questions is difficult. Politicians should ask the technocrats.

What has been clear over a period of time is staying in a perpetual sphere of diversity, both in counsel and in command. Cyrus the great, the Persian King around 600 BC, was a strategist of immense capabilities and subscribed to diversity in counsel and unity in command.

Ecclesiastes also teaches us that: “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted” Cyrus the great qualified the fundamental actions, behaviours, and outcomes of each step of the plan and assigned horses for courses for results-based leadership.


I have selected only three nightmares among many of perpetual diversity in counsel and diversity in command to illustrate the point. The late minister of communications Dr Ivy Matsepe-Cassaburi departed without broadband. The then minister of communications returned to the backbenches without broadband. In between, many a minister of communication has come and gone and the band has not been broadened. Today, we know for sure that we do not know where we stand on Gauteng e-tolls with the M2 crumbling and closed.

The honourable Minister of Energy Jeff Radebe signed off R56 billion worth of contracts on renewables. But with that he also issued the paper on energy for discussion. What then is there to discuss after signing?

Chairperson of the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation (Necsa) Dr Kelvin Kemm came out with a blistering criticism on the government. The vice-chancellor of UJ Professor Marwala Tshilidzi on Marie Curie last week lamented the fact that there is no undergraduate programme on nuclear at the university, yet advances in nuclear in South Africa were way ahead.

Professor Mike Sathekge of Steve Biko Academic Hospital has demonstrated how nuclear medicine can conquer cancer and other communicable conditions like HIV/Aids. So these scientists are discussing nuclear as a discipline.

What is startling in the document released for comment is where nuclear is located on the timeline and quantity in relation to the prominence of renewables and the necessity to derive dirty energy from coal. Was this inspired by the Cape High Court ruling, one may ask? In answer, the ruling of the court on nuclear was directed at process corruption and not to the science of nuclear. But the reaction of the document has conflated the adjudged rotten politics of procurement, and unfortunately completely ignored science.

Nuclear energy that we practised for years has a future diminished role of 2.5 percent in the future energy mix against a-by-our-own-measurement and say-so hitherto unstable renewables at 25 percent.

Then to stabilise the output of renewables, we place a yet to-be sought for gas that we do not produce at 15percent. Dirty energy, which must finally go is at 44percent. This configuration exposes South Africa’s recovery and energy-based industrialisation strategy at a perilous risk.

Our “Shoot First Strategy and Aim Later” does a disservice to a country the size and sophistication of South Africa. Will Mahlabathini come back? Will broadband ever come? Will the e-tolls saga ever be resolved? Will the energy issue ever be subjected to science based rigour?

Dr Pali Lehohla is the former statistician-general and former head of Statistics South Africa.

The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

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