Dodgy SA, Russia nuclear deal off

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By Colleta Dewa

Johannesburg - The nuclear deal between South Africa (SA) and Russia has been called off.

The new development was announced by South Africa’s minister of energy Jeff Radebe over the weekend.

Minister Radebe said the deal flopped when the SA government did not appeal the court ruling in 2017 which invalidated the nuclear deal at that time.

“That was decided by the High Court in the Western Cape last year, where the submission of the intergovernmental agreement of Russia, the United States and South Korea was tested in court. The court decided the submission was unconstitutional, unlawful and set it aside,” said Radebe.

The minister added that even on the part of Russia, hopes of reviving the deal had faded.

“There was an Intergovernmental Agreement that was signed in Russia, but that has been tested in the High Court of the Western Cape. If you mean by deal that there was a contract for us to procure nuclear, there is nothing like that, but there was a cooperation agreement signed by the former minister of energy which has now been set aside by the courts,” added Radebe.

The purported nuclear deal which South Africa engaged during the final period of the Jacob Zuma years was marred by confusion from its initial stages. The deal was in the spotlight because South Africa simply didn’t have the money to execute the deal.

In April last year, the Western Cape High Court set aside nuclear agreements that were signed by the then government led by Jacob Zuma with vendor countries, declaring them unlawful and unconstitutional. These deals were with Russia, the United States and South Korea.

The judgment came after Earthlife Africa and the South African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute approached the court in October 2015, challenging government’s decision to buy up to 9,600MW of nuclear energy.

They argued that the minister of energy, then Tina Joemat-Pettersson, had signed the agreements without a debate in Parliament. This was based on her department’s interpretation of Section 231 of the Constitution, which outlines two procedures by which South Africa becomes bound to an international agreement.

The south Korean agreement was signed in 2010, and the US one in 2009 and were both tabled before parliament in June 2015.

Surprisingly, the state argued that the Russian agreement, the Strategic Partnership on Nuclear Power and Industry did not need to be debated in Parliament because it had the legal standing of an international agreement.

The argument was, however, dismissed by the High Court, which then set aside all three deals.

Makoma Lekalakala, the director for Earthlife Africa, and Liz McDaid, climate-change coordinator for the Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute were recently awarded the coveted Goldman Environment Prize for succeeded in their legal challenge against Russian nuclear deal.

Meanwhile, the minister has pledged to rid the Central Energy Fund of corruption, adding that the process of turning the organisation around is in its final stages.

“Well, it is true that there are challenges in PetroSA. Not just PetroSA, the whole holding group of the Central Energy Fund and I am deeply concerned about it. That’s why we appointed the Boston Consulting Group to help us to turn around that entity.

“We are in the final stages of taking decisions about the turnaround of the whole group in SA today. After that, we will be filling positions because as you know there are many Hollywood actors in CEF, in PetroSA, in Strategic Fuel Fund and so on. That situation cannot go forward unattended, so it is one of my priorities in the next few weeks to ensure there is stability in the CEF,” he said.

 

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