Deputy minister of economic development Madala Masuku came out in support of the proposed South Africa-Russia nuclear deal when he addressed the Provincial Local Economic Development Seminar aimed at integrating all government spheres dealing with economic development.
The seminar was held at President Hotel in Bloemfontein on Thursday.
“All this noise regarding nuclear power that followed plans to strike a deal with Russia is unfounded,” Masuku said.
“Koeberg power station in Cape Town has been using nuclear power without incident for ages, and Cape Town has been not been hit with power problems similar to the rest of the country, so there is no need to be moved on hearing about nuclear.
“Why must it be an issue now when we want to assist other provinces to solve their energy problems?”
Among his audience were Free State economic development MEC Msebenzi Zwane, mayors from municipalities around the province, government officials as well as representatives from the Free State Development Corporation, the Competition Commission, the National Development Agency and the Industrial Development Corporation.
President Jacob Zuma had to set the record straight after a media and opposition frenzy following claims that South Africa had actually clinched a nuclear deal with Russia without allegedly following proper channels.
The presidency then issued a statement clearing the air, saying the Russian nuclear deal was at this stage only one of the options being considered by the government to solve persistent energy challenges and that it was still far from being a done deal.
Masuku, who was paying his first visit to the province after being sworn into office in May, said decisive leadership is needed in attaining economic development and that tough political and administrative decisions have to be taken.
“Decisive in this case means that you should not be cowards,” he said, adding that the monopoly and centralising of markets by established business must be broken and the economy diversified to allow for the entry of new players into the fold.
“It is a shame that even when one owns 50 cows and needs to sell the milk he will find it so difficult to do so and end up drinking that milk because the market is centralised,” Masuku said.
“Our municipal officials should be brave to approach those who monopolise the markets and work to get them to open space for new entrants.”
The deputy minister said the triple challenges of unemployment, poverty and inequality – which the National Development Plan seeks to adequately address by 2030 – should be approached with the background of the past apartheid exclusionist policies in mind.
“You find the opposition saying that there should be equal opportunities for all, yet the playing field is not level because others have been rough-tackled by deliberate policy positions,” he said.
“Hence it is important to support those who had been afflicted by apartheid before we can begin to speak of equal opportunities.”
His words were echoed by Zwane, who criticised agencies tasked with giving finance to emerging black business people for allegedly doing the opposite and preferring financing established business instead.
Zwane said efforts must be made to make sure emerging black business benefits throughout the value chain of initiatives aimed at creating opportunities for previously marginalised people.
“A case in point is the chicken abattoir where our people are only allowed to own poultry houses but are – not part of the abattoir itself, this needs to change as part of our radical economic transformation,” Zwane said.