It has been 30 years since the devastating nuclear disaster at Chernobyl, which occurred on 26 April 1986. And last month brought the five year anniversary of a nuclear disaster much more recent in our memories: Fukushima.
These two anniversaries once again confirmed why SAFCEI made the decision, nearly a year and a half ago, to speak out against South Africa’s nuclear procurement plans and together with Earthlife Africa Johannesburg take legal action. The long term effects of nuclear are of such magnitude and of such far reaching consequences that this decision can’t be shrouded in secrecy or rushed through without due process.
The latest findings by our lawyers was also anything but reassuring that South Africa would go about procuring nuclear in a transparent and fair fashion. According to records provided to our lawyers, the Russian agreement that was signed, is an agreement to build reactors and an enrichment plant, and that other subsequent agreements would cover the details of how it is to be financed, not if it would go ahead.
Such a binding agreement of course needs parliamentary approval and should be tabled under section 231.2 of the constitution because of the significant economic implications it has, however the Minister of Energy sidestepped this by tabling it under section 231.3. In this way the Department bypassed the public participation that would have been required during the process of parliamentary approval.
“Major warning lights should be flashing” says Liz McDaid, our energy and ethical governance consultant. “The implications of the manner in which the Minister tabled the agreement, against the advice of her own legal advisors, is that it locked South Africa into a twenty year deal with Russia, without any public debate over whether the country can actually afford it or not. Such a consultation process, including public hearings, could have taken place had the Russian IGA been tabled as required by section 231.2 of the constitution, where parliamentary approval is required”.
This is the second example of the secretive dealings of the Department of Energy. It was also revealed that the Minister of Energy made a determination (in terms of section 34 of the Electricity Regulation Act) that new nuclear energy was needed, and then kept it secret for two years, only releasing it finally in December 2015. The reason for releasing it when they finally did, was to undermine the SAFCEI/ELA court case. This makes us wonder how much longer would they have kept it secret? And what else are they keeping from the public?
And it is not only nuclear, but also uranium mining, its predecessor which has a veil of silence around it. Without the Karoo community noticing, the largely unknown South African company LUKISA silently accumulated some 750.000 hectares of uranium exploration concessions in the Northern Cape, Western Cape and Eastern Cape.
There was no public debate on an issue that can shape the environment of the Karoo for generations to come and affect the livelihoods of thousands of people. In March this year there was the possibility to submit an opposition to uranium mining. This was very poorly advertised and would have gone completely under if SAFCEI’s Dr Stefan Cramer had not acted to raise the veil of silence and bring the matter to light.
These tactics undermine any confidence in these industry proposals and proceedings. If everything was as above board as they claim, surely there would be no need to shroud the process in such secrecy.
It now needs all of us collectively to make sure that neither process is thrust on us without robust public debate and consultation. We ask all Earth Keepers to inform themselves and keep the conversation going on these two issues.
We also ask for any financial contributions to help us keep the court case running and do the work we do. There are several avenues through which you can do this:
- Visit our GivenGain page
- Donate directly, referencing ‘NUCLEAR’:
Account name: SAFCEI
Standard Bank, Blue Route, Tokai
Branch code: 025609
Account number: 076659410
Swift code: SBZAZAJJ
- Use Snapscan
Read our full press releases here:
Further reading on the nuclear court case proceedings:
For more information on uranium mining: