Cape Town – An environmental group locked in a legal battle with government over its nuclear procurement plans said on Monday that it is prepared to take the matter all the way to the Constitutional Court.
Speaking after a fundraising breakfast to raise funds for the court battle, Southern African Faith Communities' Environment Institute (Safcei) spokesperson Liz McDaid told Fin24 that they had thus far raised R800 000.
“The event was a huge success, bringing together a number of individuals to rally support for fundraising around the court case,” she said.
Hosting the event at the Vineyard Hotel in Newlands, Cape Town, comedian Nic Rabinowitz joked that the reason the 9.6GW nuclear deal is being compared to the Arms Deal is because “everyone will grow an extra arm”.
McDaid said that while government was “dragging its heels” over the court case in a bid to throttle their finances, Safcei is prepared to take the battle all the way to the Constitutional Court.
“If we take it all the way to the Constitutional Court, we will need more than R2m,” she added. “We are close to R800 000, but the last step in the court process ... with the government dragging their heels has actually resulted in the increase in probably another R200 000 to R300 000 to our legal bills, so we are really appealing to all South Africans to step up and help us, because we believe this is … a key democratic issue, which all South Africans need to be concerned with.”
WATCH: Interview with Safcei spokesperson Liz McDaid
According to the court rules, May 13 was the day government was supposed to respond to civil society’s application to the high court, but failed to deliver their answering affidavits by this date.
“We have instructed our lawyers to apply to the court to force the government to respond,” said McDaid. “We believe that the government is once again dragging its heels in responding.”
Safcei and Earthlife SA want the Department of Energy (DoE) to concede they did sign a secret nuclear deal with Russia, an allegation that could derail the procurement programme.
Government and Russia’s nuclear company Rosatom have both denied this allegation and say they are following a strict procurement process that appears to have stalled as a result of the court case.
The DoE was supposed to release the request for proposals on April 1, but this never occurred.
McDaid told guests that the “secret deal is being postponed due to the court case”.
“This court action is of the utmost importance for all South Africans to get behind,” she said.
“We are taking government to court – not on whether we should do nuclear or renewables – but actually about how we make decisions in the country.
“Keeping key decisions secret for two years and actually following a procurement process without following the Constitutional cost effective, equitable, fair process, means we are losing our democracy.
“Decision-making in the country is now being reduced to benefits for the elite, with everyone else paying with no schools, no hospitals, no social grants into the future.”
SA commits to transparency
Rosatom told Fin24 in 2015 that its press release in 2014 incorrectly alluded to a done deal, but said this was far from the truth.
“We cannot hook up with a politician and make a deal (that will span) generations,” Viktor Polikarpov, Rosatom’s head of sub-Saharan Africa operations, said in February.
Energy Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson also denied the deal. “We are committed to transparency,” she said in 2015. “We are not going to compromise our country in any way.”
In the 2014 Rosatom press release Joemat-Pettersson is quoted as saying: "This agreement opens up the door for South Africa to access Russian technologies, funding, infrastructure, and provides (a) proper and solid platform for future extensive collaboration."
Comedian Nic Rabinowitz tried to explain how nuclear energy could be quite useful if there is a meltdown. "Some people will glow in the dark, which will be very good during load shedding," he quipped. Photo: Matthew le Cordeur.
Safcei Patron Bishop Geoff Davies said society puts money ahead of the planet. "We need to put the planet first," he said. "Money is just there to help the welfare of the planet and people." (Photo: Matthew le Cordeur)