The trillion Rand question: Is President Zuma hanging on to seal a nuclear deal?

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“We have excess power and we have no money to go for a major nuclear plant building.” That was the word from ANC President, Cyril Ramaphosa last month at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland – which many citizens have taken to mean that South Africa will not be pursuing an expensive and unnecessary nuclear deal any time in the near future. However, citizens have watched with increasing frustration and a significant amount of despondency, the machinations within South African leadership over the past couple of weeks.

Yesterday, the Department of Energy tweeted a photo of Minister Mahlobo hosting his counterpart from Russia, Minister Sergey Donsky, the Chair of South Africa’s Central Energy Fund, Luvo Makasi, and the Russian Ambassador, Michail Petrakov.

Minister Mahlobo today hosted his counterpart from Federation of Russia Min Sergey Donsky on either side is CEF Chair n Amb Michail Petrakov

— Department of Energy (@Energy_ZA) February 8, 2018

According to the Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute (SAFCEI), the latest Russian energy delegation visit to South does not inspire confidence that Mr Ramaphosa will be able (or even intends) to overcome President Zuma’s desperation for a nuclear deal.

Liziwe McDaid, SAFCEI’s energy justice spokesperson says, “This latest revelation points to a nuclear deal attempting to rise again. Reports of a potential visit from Russian president, Vladimir Putin were rubbished as fake news, yet here we have a Russian energy delegation meeting with the South African nuclear industry.”

“If they are serious about tackling corruption, the new ANC leadership has to make a decisive break with the old. They also need to be unambiguous in their refusal to consider nuclear, rather than using language that is open to interpretation. Right now, Mr Ramaphosa’s statement in Davos means nothing, since he merely echoed the words of the Finance Minister,” says McDaid.

“We are more concerned with what is not being said. The fact that South Africa cannot afford nuclear may not be enough to stop this government from accepting astronomical loans from Russia, while it has the power to do so. Already in 2016 the Russian nuclear company, Rosatom, tried to punt a nuclear loan to South Africa.”

Referring to recent loans Russia has made to countries such as Egypt, Turkey, Bangladesh and Hungary for new nuclear plants, McDaid says, “The threat of our current government going this route is very real and very dangerous. Nuclear deals are infamous for associated corruption, and the current SA government has the most appalling, ongoing track record in this area.

“The country’s economic and social outlook is very grim for the foreseeable future. How will we be able to repay a loan of this magnitude, when we are struggling to hold our heads above water, as it is? And I dread to even consider what the loan repayment terms will include. The risks are just too high.”

“South Africa cannot afford nuclear. We cannot afford loans for nuclear, which would be disastrous. If we are serious about corruption, we cannot have any kind of nuclear deals. Not big ones or small ones. We need to send a clear message to the South African government and to the world that our country is NOT for sale,” concludes McDaid.


Issued by Natasha Adonis, SAFCEI Communications Coordinator.

Note to Editor:

Links to stories about Russian nuclear loans to the countries mentioned above: