Implications of the BUSA-BBC split for the government’s nuclear plans

2017-05-24 14:46

Earlier this week, it was reported that there has been a split in South Africa’s organised business community and that the Black Business Council has severed its ties with Business Unity South Africa, the traditional representative of business interests in post-apartheid South Africa. Given that the business community in general has been a vocal opponent of the government’s nuclear plans, this rift is likely to be greeted with a certain degree of enthusiasm by nuclear supporters. Subsequently, this divorce may have a number of repercussions for the pending nuclear deal.

Speculatively, nuclear supporters and the government will be keen to exploit this division by intensifying their efforts to woo Black business’ support for the nuclear programme by telling them of the potentially lucrative opportunities which this plan would present for Black businesspersons and reminding them of the important contribution which multi-billion rand public infrastructure projects could make to help realising the state’s vision of transforming the economy and altering the racial structure of wealth ownership patterns. These arguments may prove decisive in winning the support of this important constituency for this controversial programme. Needless to say, this support may prove crucial in persuading an increasingly sceptical public of the government’s underlying motivations for this project and the prospective benefits thereof.

There is no guarantee, however, that the content of these discussions will be made public. There will thus be no way for ordinary members of the public to scrutinise the nature and content of these claims nor will ordinary citizens be informed of the promises that the government will likely have to make to secure Black business’ support. In other words, no effective mechanism exists to keep ordinary citizens informed of what will be promised to who. Few ordinary South Africans (the vast majority of whom are not business owners but workers, a sizeable proportion of them poor or unemployed at that) are likely to be satisfied with this state of affairs. This dissatisfaction is likely to prompt concerned citizens to explore ways of ensuring that ordinary South Africans are kept in the loop and that their interests will be protected no matter the promises which government feels must be made to secure support for the nuclear plans which are supposedly in all our interests.

Submitting the government’s decision to a referendum is one way to compel the powers that be to share information about these decisions with ordinary citizens and to force government and powerful vested interests to convince us of how this project will benefit us and the country in the long run. More importantly, putting it to a popular vote serves to guarantee that policymakers will act on the wishes of the ordinary citizens at whose behest they serve. If you are unhappy with elites getting to decide upon billion rand projects for which generations of ordinary taxpayers will invariably have to pay without obtaining our input thereon, then we urge you to support the call for a referendum on nuclear power by going to, liking the page and signing the petitions that have been posted there.

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