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Russian nuclear agreement not a done deal, says govt

Feb 24 2017 18:41
Jenni Evans, News24

Cape Town - The agreement South Africa signed with Russia over nuclear energy is not a commercial agreement, the Western Cape High Court heard on Friday.

''It is not the minister telling everybody 'go out and procure','' said Advocate Marius Oosthuizen, trying to convince the judges that the controversial treaty was more a putting out of feelers than a secret R1trn commercial agreement.

Earthlife Africa Johannesburg and the Southern African Faith Communities' Environment Institute have applied to the court for a review of the agreement, on the grounds that there had been no public participation before it was tabled in Parliament and that the estimated R1trn price tag will bankrupt the country.

The case against Minister of Energy Tina Joemat-Pettersson, President Jacob Zuma, the National Energy Regulator of South Africa, the Speaker of the National Assembly and the chairperson of the National Council of Provinces was heard over two days by Judges Lee Bozalek and Elizabeth Baartman.

Both wanted to know what gave the government the right to table the agreement at Parliament without it being debated first.

Oosthuizen submitted that the law allows Zuma and the government departments concerned to come up with policies on the country's needs, and to table international agreements between sovereign states without them being debated in Parliament first.

The determination that South Africa needs 9.6 GW of extra nuclear power is in line with that right to set policy, and for those policies to lead to action, he said.

The time for objections and discussion would come with the call for licences, he explained.

But Bozalek wanted to know why the government intended waiting until the licensing phase before seeking public opinion on nuclear power.

''Doesn't that have the capacity to affect the rights of people who may not want to live in a society where nuclear energy plays a role?" he asked.

Oosthuizen said they would get their chance during the licensing application phase.

"Then those people with the bee in their bonnet, they can come to the fore."

Judgment in the application was reserved.

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