Seeming to start over – but is the Russian nuclear deal really off?

Eskom acting CEO Matshela Koko
Eskom acting CEO Matshela Koko

In the midst of a court challenge by environmental groups of the now two-year old SA-Russia nuclear ‘deal’, our Department of Energy, (DoE), suddenly (inadvertently?) produces a new-build Request for Proposals (RFP) – as if they’re starting on a clean slate. This is yet another powerful illustration of why the judicial commission of enquiry into Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s ‘State Capture’ report findings should be convened post haste. Zuma’s intention to wield his allegedly Constitutional mandate to appoint the judge who sits on the probe must speedily be legally confronted. Until then, no government official must complain of the public suspecting something deeply amiss when the State/Eskom pops up, virginally innocent, with an RFP, saying it will gazette it this week. The RFP states that all tender procedures will be; “fair, equitable, transparent, competitive and cost-effective” (nogal). The new determination officially changes the procuring agency of the 9.6 GW nuclear new build programme from the DoE to Eskom – but is deafeningly silent about the Russian ‘deal’. How can we not be suspicious, given former Eskom CEO Brian Molefe’s involvement with Gupta company acquisitions and the less-than-impeccably clean record of his successor, Matshela Koko? It smacks of tactical government face-saving, though that may be a red herring, given the evidence that the Nuclear Procurement bill – supposedly on ice – may be thawing on a warm stove top. A nuclear deal with Russia – in the face of mounting evidence that an alternative approach to nuclear and fossil fuel is both cheaper and less risky – will, as usual, benefit the privileged in government and not the populace. Shades of the Arms Deal. Or not – if we take the RFP at face value – but that would require trust, a rare public commodity when it comes to government. – Chris Bateman

By Matthew le Cordeur

Cape Town – Eskom will release the 9.6 GW nuclear new build request for proposals (RFP) this week, acting Eskom CEO Matshela Koko told Fin24 and Reuters on Tuesday.

This follows a surprise revelation in court on Tuesday that a new nuclear determination is about to be gazetted by the Department of Energy (DoE).

Picture taken March 8, 2015. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann
Picture taken March 8, 2015. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

This was revealed by the DoE’s legal team in the Western Cape High Court on Tuesday.

The new determination would replace the 2013 determination, the gazette that was only published in December last year.

The determination officially changes the procuring agency of the 9.6 GW nuclear new build programme from the DoE to Eskom, a decision that Cabinet approved recently.

The determination, which the DoE legal team said was on its way to the government printers, was signed by Energy Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson on December 5 and energy regulator Nersa on December 8.

When the determination is gazetted, Eskom will be allowed to release the RFPs, Koko said.

“The RFP will seek information on the bidders, the technology and its cost,” he said while court was out of session.

The new determination could delay the court case being heard. The DoE legal team only received the determination this week and surprised both the judge and the legal team representation of environmentalist groups Safcei and Earthlife SA.

The groups are legally challenging government’s nuclear procurement process, focusing on an intergovernmental agreement signed with Russia in 2014.

They believe legal documents indicate that South Africa did sign a binding nuclear deal with Russia.

They said “the Russian agreement was entered into unlawfully, but makes (an) internationally binding commitment to buy a fleet of nuclear reactors from Russia”.

From the state law adviser’s explanatory memorandum that was prepared in November 2013 but only revealed recently to Safcei/ELA, “it is evident that the Russian agreement is to build reactors and an enrichment plant”, the group said.

They said other subsequent agreements would “cover the details of how it is to be financed, not if it would go ahead”. – News24


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