‘We had no idea of nuclear workshops’

2014-10-25 00:00

THE Parliament’s energy committee had “no idea the nuclear workshops had even started”, until The Witness published details of the secret Russian bid meeting yesterday.

And, enraged by the secrecy measures outlined in the story, the Democratic Alliance will table a formal Parliamentary question to the Energy Minister on Monday, demanding details of agreements struck with Russian nuclear company Rosatom.

A DA statement yesterday said: “This is not the latest Hollywood espionage thriller, but the reality of a secret meeting taking place.”

Meanwhile, the story of the covert meeting at the Champagne Sports Resort triggered a massive media and social response yesterday, including “ReTweets” to 103 000 followers by political commentator Justice Malala.

Tellingly, the Department of Energy rushed a media statement on the workshop hours after a Witness reporter revealed to its officials that he had physically attended one of the Rosatom meetings.

The statement made no mention of Rosatom, but said: “The Government has successfully concluded the first nuclear vendor parade workshop with the Russian Federation.”

The DA and others have alleged that the Russian bid to build eight nuclear power stations here is already “a done deal”, due to an improper personal agreement between Vladimir Putin and Jacob Zuma. However, the Witness found evidence that middle-management energy officials are tackling the workshops as if no vendor has yet been chosen — asking hard questions on technical matters, like Rosatom’s tsunami protection.

The department had previously announced that other countries, including South Korea and the United States, had signed intergovernmental agreements similar to Russia’s and would be invited to present their own proposals for South Africa’s nuclear build programme at other workshops.

However, yesterday’s statement did confirm a revelation by The Witness that some countries could miss out if they failed to present in terms of a set deadline. It stated that bids would be considered “[depending] on the readiness of these countries to participate”.

The Witness understands that only France and China are certain to compete with Russia for the R1 trillion deal. In addition, The Witness was able to confirm that Rosatom was given the first chance to present and identified at least 20 Rosatom delegates to the workshop.

Lance Greyling, DA spokesperson on energy, said members of the Parliament’s oversight committee,including ANC members, had not been informed that workshops were already under way.

“Any attempts to portray this as an open bidding process is a farce,” said Greyling. “It is clear that Rosatom is the preferred bidder and the minister must answer as to why.”

However, South Africa’s nuclear chief, Zizamele Mbambo, insisted that the workshops were merely “for vendor countries to showcase what their technology offerings would be”, and that “government has not yet even begun the procurement process”.

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