Picture: REUTERS
Picture: REUTERS

Anti-nuclear lobby groups say they will do all that is possible, including turning to the courts and mass protests, to stop the government’s nuclear plans.

On Tuesday, groups belonging to #StopCorruptNuclearSA spent 67 minutes as part of Mandela Day, occupying bridges on highways in Cape Town to protest government’s ongoing pursuit of nuclear power, which they say represents SA’s "most urgent threat".

Last month, President Jacob Zuma said in Parliament that the government was still intent on pursuing the nuclear new-build programme at a pace and scale the country could afford. He said the nuclear programme remained firmly part of the energy mix SA was pursuing to ensure energy security. The mix includes hydro, solar, coal, wind and gas.

Kate Davies, one of the founding members of the Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute (SAFCEI) which forms part of the anti-nuclear lobby, told Business Day that the groups would do everything to stop government from continuing with the nuclear programme. "We firmly believe that it is a great mistake for our country to pursue nuclear. We simply cannot afford it … We are also hearing that Eskom is already bankrupt … hopefully, sense will prevail. We are waiting and watching, and we remind civil society to be vigilant," said Davies.

She said the secret nature of the programme meant it was open to corruption at a scale worse than the arms deal and that the government should rather focus on renewables, which have been proven to be cheaper and safer than nuclear. Furthermore, she said, demand for electricity was decreasing as consumers find smarter ways to use power and the current consumption patterns meant the country did not need nuclear.

Vainola Makan, from Right2Know Campaign, which is also part of the anti-nuclear lobby, said: "Citizens face a major issue with government at the moment, in that our government continues to purposefully exclude South Africans from important decisions."

The High Court in Cape Town recently set aside the two determinations issued by former energy minister, Tina Joemat-Pettersson, that laid the basis for the nuclear procurement. It found that the determinations relating to the construction of nuclear plants with a capacity of 9,600MW were unconstitutional and invalid.

The court also declared the nuclear co-operation agreement between the South African and Russian governments to be unconstitutional and unlawful. The case was brought against the government by Earthlife Africa and SAFCEI.

Following the ruling, Energy Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi said the government was reviewing its nuclear agreements with many countries.

Last month, Zuma said it was important to note that the High Court found fault with the process followed, especially in tabling the intergovernmental agreements in preparation for the nuclear new-build programme. The judgment, said Zuma, did not deal with substantive matters pertaining to the country’s future energy programmes.

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