Max du Preez

We need a massive effort to avoid Zuma's nuclear disaster

2016-11-15 08:29

South Africans will have to mobilise quickly and on a much greater scale than ever before to prevent the single biggest disaster facing us in the near future: the plans to build a fleet of nuclear power stations.

This project will cost the country well over R1 trillion in the end, perhaps more than double that, which would impoverish South Africa for generations to come and lead to dangerous social and political instability that could pose a threat to our democracy.

What is more, the project will undoubtedly damage the moral fibre of society more than the weapons scandal and so undermine the status and legitimacy of the state even more.

There are now indications, other than the rumours and political gossip of recent times, that the cabal around President Jacob Zuma have already received bribe money from Russia.

When one talks about a trillion rand or more, one can only wonder how many millions have been or are being spent to this end. And all this for something that South Africa really doesn’t need. 

Most respected energy analysts believe the ideal route to take would be renewable energy in conjunction with gas generators that kick in at peak times.

This route is demonstrably safer, cheaper, easier to control and would create many more job opportunities.

South Africans will have to act quickly and decisively to stop this project in its tracks before irreversible contracts are signed.

It would have to be a gargantuan, multi-dimensional effort by civil society, political parties and the business community, much more ambitious than, for instance, the famous struggle by the Treatment Action Campaign and others to get the Mbeki administration to reverse its HIV/Aids policies.

I hoped that this project would be stopped by the ANC itself, because I have heard from some ANC insiders that many in the party leadership are seriously concerned about it.

This was confirmed by weekend reports that EFF leader Julius Malema had testified that the ANC’s Gwede Mantashe had asked him to make an end to the nuclear plans a precondition for potential alliance formation. 

Malema said Mantashe believed that the nuclear power project would cause the country’s collapse.

But my hope was in vain. Zuma has outmaneuvered his critics time after time. There is simply too much money at stake, too many palms to be oiled, and the involvement of the state security agencies is simply too strong.

Well, let me qualify that a little. 

Zuma fired Nhlanhla Nene as finance minister on 9 December last year, precisely because he, as the man in charge of the National Treasury, resisted the nuclear project.

The ANC’s deputy president, Cyril Ramaphosa, and its treasurer-general, Zweli Mkhize, were instrumental in forcing Zuma to undo the appointment of the Gupta-nominated Des Van Rooyen and had him replaced by Pravin Gordhan.

Someone whose information I trust, tells me that Zuma invited Nene to his office earlier last year where he introduced him to two top Russian officials and asked the three to come to some agreement regarding the nuclear power stations.

According to my source Nene told them that there were structures to work through and processes and policy directives to follow. The Russians were surprised and annoyed. Hadn’t their president, Vladimir Putin, and Zuma already come to an agreement? Why was that not the final word?

Ramaphosa, Mantashe and Mkhize did not stop Zuma from firing Gordhan as finance minister in May 2014 for trying to obstruct Zuma’s nuclear plans, nor did they stop Zuma when he did the same to the then Minister of Energy, Ben Martins, and his director-general, Nelisizwe Magubane.

The fierce onslaught on Gordhan the last eleven months by the Hawks, SA Revenue Service, National Prosecuting Authority and array of Gupta propagandists is also tied to his resistance to the nuclear project.

All South Africans that are concerned about the long term impact of the nuclear project on our economy and our democracy will have to arm themselves with proper research so they can fight the battle with facts and figures rather than emotion.

They need to get all the information about South Africa’s energy patterns and changing needs; the pros and cons of solar and wind energy; the contracts signed with the DRC to get access to hydro power; and the possibilities and cost of gas generators.

They need to study papers and books by the top international and local energy experts proving, among other things, beyond a doubt that Eskom was lying when it said nuclear energy was cheaper than renewable energy used with gas turbines. 

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

Read more on:    jacob zuma  |  eskom  |  nuclear deal
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