‘Nuclear deal’ claims first scalp: Necsa’s CEO Phumzile Tshelane

Necsa’s Phumzile Tshelane.
Necsa’s Phumzile Tshelane.

The Russian nuclear deal is claiming its first victim with the Nuclear Energy Corporation of SA (Necsa) poised to fire its chief executive, Phumzile Tshelane.

Tshelane – who was party to a cooperation agreement signed with Rusatom Healthcare, a subsidiary of Russian nuclear agency Rosatom – was found guilty on Friday of four charges of misconduct by its chairperson advocate Nazeer Cassim SC.

Documents obtained by City Press revealed that Tshelane was found guilty of having signed the nuclear cooperation agreement without the approval of Energy Minister Jeff Radebe, as well as splurging R500 000 on a golf day when the entity could not afford to pay salaries and unlawfully appointing one of the board members and paying him a monthly retainer.

“The CEO was not entitled to participate in the signing of the so-called nuclear deal without ministerial approval,” Cassim said.

But Tshelane knows nothing about his impending dismissal.

He told City Press: “I am surprised and taken aback that there are findings. As far as I know, the disciplinary hearing is not complete as I’m still to testify.”

In his 10-page report, Cassim found that: “It appears that when the minister refused the signing of the agreement under scrutiny, the CEO considered that this would pose a political embarrassment and he proceeded to conclude the agreement without the approval of the minister.”

Cassim said Tshelane, through his attorneys, asked for more time to finalise his response to the charges drawn up by Mncedisi Ndlovu & Sedumedi Attorneys (MNS Attorneys), who represented Necsa, but instead approached the high court to interdict proceedings.

According to the charge sheet, in July last year Necsa, with the State Atomic Energy Corporation (Rosatom), concluded the Strategic Document on Cooperation in the Sphere of Non-Power Related Uses of Nuclear Technologies.

That agreement “bound Necsa to cooperate with Rosatom to investigate the possible deepening of commercial cooperation in areas of production and distribution of MO-99 Radio Isotope for the global market”.

They also wanted to build solution reactors in South Africa.

The charge sheet states that the draft agreement was discussed with Radebe who said the collaboration would amount to a conflict of interest as South Africa was already in partnership with Australia on similar projects.

But the Rosatom signing went ahead, regardless, and it was announced soon after.

Necsa charged Tshelane with financial misconduct, accusing him of having instructed Necsa’s chief financial officer Hlengiwe Khumalo to ignore advice that Necsa could not afford to pay a bill of R500 000, sent by Pecanwood Golf Estate which hosted a golf day event Tshelane wanted.

The charge sheet states: “Khumalo informed you that the R500 000 invoice by Pecanwood Golf is unaffordable unless you give us an instruction to honour it which puts pressure on our situation and may result in us not being able to pay some salaries.”

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