Energy minister Mmamoloko Kubayi told the portfolio committee on energy on Tuesday that she would be challenging the recent High Court ruling that called the country’s nuclear procurement processes unconstitutional.
She said that the department remains committed to the nuclear energy plan, and would seek a declaratory order from the court that it can continue with its plans, or alternatively appeal the judgment.
According to Kubayi, she has not problem with the request in the judgement that more public participation take place, saying she is in favour of running an open and transparent process.
She stressed, however, that the nuclear plan couldn’t be abandoned, with nuclear energy forming an integral part of the country’s energy future, with predictability and certainty needed for investors.
The high court issued a major ruling in favour of Earthlife Africa (ELA) and the Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute (SAFCEI) last week, setting aside the nuclear deal between South Africa and Russia with immediate effect.
ELA and SAFCEI argued that the processes followed by government and Eskom leading up to the decision to sign agreements with Russia, and the Section 34 Determination to procure nuclear power, were illegal and not in line with constitutionally sound administrative decision-making.
The ruling has set back South Africa’s nuclear ambitions significantly, with even appeals processes and the litigation surrounding it likely to push back the process by about a year.
According to analysts, this delay is likely to put even more pressure on president Jacob Zuma and the political sphere leading up to the ANC’s elective conference in December, as the nuclear programme is a key component in pushing certain political interests.
The appeal comes as no surprise.
“The stakes politically and geopolitically for the government, and specifically for President Zuma, are simply too high. So much has been invested in terms of political capital, including two reshuffles. We therefore fully expect the government to continue to push down this road,” said research analyst at Nomura, Peter Attard Montalto.
“The stakes politically and geopolitically for the government, and specifically for President Zuma, are simply too high. So much has been invested in terms of political capital, including two reshuffles. We therefore fully expect the government to continue to push down this road.”