Opinionista Wayne Duvenage 21 December 2016

Eskom & DoE must act in the interest of public, or face the consequences

The recent irrational action and behaviour by Eskom’s Acting CEO, Matshela Koko and the Minister of Energy, Tina Joemat-Pettersson, to rush ahead with determinations, plans and proposals of interest for a new nuclear energy build program is not only dumbfounding and dubious; it smacks of wilful misconduct.

There is nothing to warrant the rush. Even the incomplete Integrated Resource Plan IRP2016, which is supposed to be conducted after the Integrated Energy Plan (according to Government’s own policy and still not updated for six years), indicates that nuclear energy is not a foreseen requirement in South Africa’s energy mix, for at least the next 13 years, if at all. And the messages coming in from almost every energy expert and scientific study being conducted today, points to a declining need for nuclear.

This matter of “no nuclear” is further evidenced by many countries currently making changes to their energy mix, who are removing nuclear from their plans. Yet here we sit in South Africa, with our political leadership saturated in clandestine trips and discussions with nuclear suppliers, questionable ministerial determinations and dubious dealings steeped in conflict and irrationality.  Coupled with this, our monopolistic energy utility, whose own leadership was recently implicated of serious wrongdoing in the state capture report, have decided to hold off on signing agreements with already committed independent renewable power projects, with irrational reasons of high energy costs from these projects.

Its all quite bizarre and astounding to read Eskom’s regular announcements of confusing nuclear reasoning that sounds like a drunkard trying to explain string theory to a door-knob. It just doesn’t make sense.

What do our erstwhile authorities in the Department of Energy believe the South African public should make of this mystifying behaviour?

How are we to equate this flurry of conduct and overzealous desire to get the nuclear program off the ground? One must ask why Mr Koko and Co are not placing as much zest and energy on completion of Medupi and Kusile projects, which flounder along, now several years overdue and three to four times the initial estimated price-tag. Couple this with the Ingula hydro plant, steeped in maladministration and corruption, and the mind begins to boggle and to what will happen with Eskom’s management of a nuclear build program. And the Minister expects the public and Treasury to trust her judgement in handing over a nuclear build program to Eskom? 

Somebody better wake up and smell the uranium.

Stepping back, one asks what a sane and level-headed Governmental approach would be in our current situation? It would be reasonable to allow a few months patience for IRP2016 modelling and stakeholder engagement process to be complete, some time around Q2 of 2017. Then to requests an inclusion of input from credible international energy agencies, combined with local scientific facts and trends emanating from our local conditions and environment. Only then, would this sane and rational government decide on the need for an expensive nuclear energy program. 

Sadly, that sane thinking and approach is far from our shores. 

With all the energy option compasses pointing in one direction, what possesses our authorities to move with haste in the opposite direction? This behaviour leaves the public with only one thought… a dear old corruption.  The sweet smell of untold enrichment, the one which has a tendency to blind rational thinking and ruin moral compass.

There is however a growing force of civil activism and a heightened moral courage, energised by the ‘Doctrine of common purpose.’  This doctrine which written into our legal framework basically means that if a person knows of, or has participated directly or indirectly in acts of wrongdoing, and have chosen to look away or ignore the problem by not speaking up or do something about it, they can personally be held liable as a co-perpetrator of the very same crime. Look it up. It’s scary stuff, if you are crooked.

Just as Hlaudi Motsoeneng and his past board members, management and possibly even his minister will be pursued and hauled before the courts to answer for their transgressions, so too will it be with others in power who waste our hard-earned taxes in such acts of gross maladministration and corruption.

The situation whereby people in positions of power believe they are beyond reproach is fast changing. Fortunately, the oversight bodies within parliament appear to no longer sit back and tolerate the irrational and nonsensical waste of money perpetuated within government and state owned entities. And neither will civil society and the public at large.

One imagines that public servants and leadership within state owned entities are fast becoming aware of President Zuma’s waning powers of control, the same powers that used to shield and protect them from the expected consequences of gross misconduct.  Ask the once brazen Mr Motsoeneng, his Chairman and battered Minister of Communications how they’re feeling lately. Ask too of others who once abused their positions of power within state entities, only to find that their new bosses did not agree with their conduct. Criminal and delinquent director charges are imminent.

Those who abuse their positions of authority can no longer act dumb and respond with excuses of “I wasn’t aware.” The traces, finger prints and crumbs of deceit spread easily today, with secure communication platforms and a camera-recorder in everyone’s hands. The rise of the whistle-blower and the morally courageous citizen is here and the citizens of South Africa are beginning to claim back the nation’s prosperity that is rightfully theirs. They will do this by getting behind civil action organisations that set their sights on those who abuse their positions of authority.

It’s time to come forward before it’s too late. If you know about it and do nothing about it, you are a co-perpetrator. Don’t say you were not warned. DM


"Take a chance, won't you? Knock down the fences which divide. Tear apart the walls that imprison you. Reach out. Freedom lies just on the other side." ~ Thurgood Marshall