The R1-trillion initial estimated cost of the nuclear deal in 2011, which former president Jacob Zuma was pushing for, was equal to SA’s entire expenditure budget for that year — something completely beyond the country’s financial capacity. This is according to public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan’s testimony at the commission of inquiry into state capture on Monday. Gordhan was finance minister when Zuma began showing interest in the nuclear-build project and in entering into a deal, which would have led to Russia supplying nuclear power capabilities to SA. The former president was pushing for the deal with Russia despite experts warning that nuclear was neither needed nor affordable. The reluctance of two finance ministers — Gordhan and Nhlanhla Nene — played a role in them getting fired. Their axing shook investors’ confidence in SA, fuelling a drop in the rand and wiping billions off the value of the JSE.

In October, Nene told the inquiry that he believed Zuma fired ...

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