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Mahlobo’s Nuclear Farce will implode our future


Jay Naidoo is founding General Secretary of Cosatu, a former minister in the Nelson Mandela government and is a board member of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation.

Fifty-five million South Africans are being betrayed. Again.

Energy minister David Mahlobo’s nuclear farce will implode South Afcrica’s future. Why? First and foremost, because we don’t need dangerous, expensive nuclear energy. We have over 300 days of sunlight per year in this country. And we know that for every GwH generated, coal creates 0.7 jobs, nuclear 0.1, solar 62 and wind 13. So economically it makes no sense looking into fossil fuel or nuclear. The future – and the vast majority of scientists of the world say so – is in renewable energy. For our children, for our planet, and for our economy.

David Mahlobo, the Minister of Energy, is acting with the specific, unconstitutional brief to push through a flawed nuclear energy plan. It contradicts the opinions and views of many stakeholders in our country, including business, labour and even the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), the government’s own agency for scientific advice. It has nothing to do with our energy security, or the security of our health and our future. It will only create a few permanent jobs for the millions that are unemployed, compared to renewable energy. And it will not solve the energy poverty facing millions of poor in the rural areas of South Africa.

The minister’s energy plan also contradicts the government’s own commitment under the Paris Agreement to reduce emissions. And this in a country already facing the crisis of climate change – Cape Town is without water, Durban’s inundated with flooding and large areas of our country is experiencing drought in the last few years – that massively affects food production.

In the minds of the majority, it is evident that interests which have nothing to do with the rights and desires of South Africans – although there are a few in government who don’t seem to understand the future – are obstacles to affordable, safe and accessible clean energy. It is about a corrupt nexus of political and economic elites who are intent on driving the State Capture project, which has already bankrupted the most important State-owned Enterprises and crippled the industrial giants of Africa such as Eskom and Transnet.

It is clear as day what is happening.

The Western Cape High Court issued a ruling saying that there needs to be proper consultation in the process of drawing up a new energy plan. So what did our minister do? He called a small selective meeting over two days and called that a national consultation. Really?!

With a number of interested and concerned citizens left off the Department of Energy’s (DoE) invitation list, civil society is hitting back with a number of complaints/concerns regarding the rushed indaba. Minister Mahlobo and his cohorts are the only ones who seem to think that a short-notice indaba, which excludes the input of the larger society, constitutes full public participation. In a letter, sent to the minister and the DoE, a group of 24 civil organisations and NGOs also objected to the lack of agenda. There was no response.

This fake indaba, as it stands, violates the people’s constitutional right to be heard and it should be viewed as a clear indication that government has no intention of promoting any kind of meaningful public participation on the draft Integrated Energy Plan (IEP) and Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) Update. The minister deliberately aims to exclude public input in determining a sustainable energy future for South Africa. But mostly, the decision to ram through such a deal goes against the new world current, which is to think very carefully about the decisions we take today because they affect all of us tomorrow.

The invitation list for this sham of an indaba – called for by the State President and executed by the Minister of Energy – included a large pro-nuclear contingent, from South Africa and abroad, while civil society had deliberately been side-lined. Thankfully, a number of concerned citizens made their dissatisfaction known, as they picketed outside the venue. Eventually, the peaceful protesters were locked out of the grounds by venue security.

How can government talk about improving the quality of life of citizens, when they don’t want to talk to citizens, nor do they want to objectively discuss the risks citizens are expected to take with nuclear? The president skates on his narrative of radical economic transformation, but nuclear energy would be a radical misappropriation of funds and a radically bad move for a country already failing to deliver the most basic of services to its most needy citizens. Going nuclear will only make the situation worse for the most vulnerable in the country.

The public has a right of access to the various technical reports that underpin the IRP process, but which have not been forthcoming. These reports will allow interested parties the opportunity to actively participate in an indaba. Many suspect that these reports will refute government’s claims that nuclear energy is a must and the best option, and will weaken government’s case for nuclear.

A recently released study, produced by the One Million Climate Jobs (OMCJ) campaign, concludes that renewable energy jobs can be created throughout the energy supply chain. This includes eco-centric manufacturing jobs in factories to make parts and also developing the infrastructure to deal with the new energy generation tools, as well as the technical skills needed to maintain and run these new technologies. According to the study, more than 250,000 permanent jobs will be created at the beginning of the process of renewable energy.

In every aspect, renewable energy is better. In rural areas, communities benefit in terms of increased employment opportunities and also improved access to affordable, clean electricity as well as an income, as excess energy could be sold to the grid.

Thinking about this “nuclear deal” and its consequences for the country and its citizens, I am reminded of what the towering intellectual and humble servant of our country, Professor Njabulo Ndebele, said to the recently held ANC Veterans and Stalwarts Conference.

“The scourge of corruption in South Africa today has gone far from being a matter of law and order. The notion of law and order applies to a state process where the vast majority of population respects the rule of law … and where law enforcement agencies enforce the same law by dealing firmly with theft, violence and threat to peace. What is happening today is that the government, elected to act accordingly and support and promote law and order and constitutional rule, in several aspects of its conduct, has abdicated that responsibility … it has itself become a thief that steals.”

This “nuclear deal” is the clearest indication of such thievery. DM


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