Nuclear Power Deal with Russia – Zuma needs to explain….

The South African government should explain the size of the Russian nuclear deal, why they have focused on Russia and what other alternatives could be looked at in future to offset this spend on nuclear. “There was no surprise in terms of government’s intention to go with nuclear power in a sense, but I think what’s surprising of course is firstly the extent of this particular deal … and [that] South Africa has chosen Russia as a strategic partner,” Daniel Silke said in a telephonic interview. “There’s mistrust politically in South Africa between our politicians entering into very capital-intensive deals and in particular given the continued question marks surrounding President [Jacob] Zuma, [and] the Arms Deal spy tapes saga that is still very much in the news,” he said. “I think this also partially reflects South Africans’ skepticism for this type of deal.”

h3. Relationship between Zuma and Putin

The biggest question is whether South Africa had engaged will all countries around nuclear energy, or whether the BRICS partnership between Russia and South Africa had pushed them together. It seems that President Zuma increasingly also has a close relationship with Vladimir Putin and that this BRICS partnership in particular could have been the spur in the sense to afford South Africa the opportunity to go with a Russian consortium. It seems clear that South Africans might not have been told the full story about the broader tender process involved and what other countries might bring to the table on this issue. Was Alstom or Westinghouse contacted? We all remember Sarkozy lobbying for years, what has France to say?

The lack of sufficient energy, one of the reasons for the weak economic growth, does not justify on its own to violate all procurement protocols. What happened in Nkandala and by setting up VFS Centres for Immigration Applications seems now to be repeated. Zuma walks alone, oblivious to financial and legal constraints deeply embedded in the constitution and subsequent legislation.

h3. Affordable Renewable Energy

There’s going to be – over the course of the next 20 – 30 years – change in the cost structures of renewable energies, in particular solar energy and the price of these alternatives are going to come down quite dramatically and coupled with an intention by government to embark on shale exploration or fracking as we call it, the question has to be asked whether such a huge spend on nuclear over the course of the next 20 years may be either unnecessary in the medium to longer term or in fact other technologies might usurp the nuclear option. On the other hand the Renewable Energy program will offer electricity on a very small scale, up to 75 MW per utility with only 8 – 15 utilities being approved per bidding round. If calculated with the frequency of the REIPPPP bidding rounds that will lead to 500 MW going online per year and thus only reaching 10 GW in 20 years. The nuclear power deal aims at 9.5GW alone, one plant!

Finally another question must be asked: Could this deal affect the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) that needs to be renewed by the US Congress in 2015? Zuma is doing his best to antagonise its trading partners in Europe and the US by awarding favourite deals and conditions to China and now Russia. He has long stopped abiding by the law or governing principles with regard to local and international procurement. How long do we need to watch him positioning South Africa on a road that can well end in a Chinese-Russian Cul-de-Sac?

Mr. President, take your ill-performing family and friends, pack and leave. It is time to hand the reigns of the country over to someone, who has South Africa close to his heart, not only himself!

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