The urgency and secrecy of the deal South Africa is looking to strike with Russia for the supply of up to eight nuclear power plants means “someone is up to no good”, Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille said on Monday.
That someone, she suggested in her weekly newsletter, is President Jacob Zuma.
In a strongly-worded criticism of the president, she said he appeared to believe the fiscus was “his to plunder”.
Zille said Zuma had spent his entire time in office trying to avoid facing charges of fraud, corruption, racketeering and money laundering, stemming from the arms deal.
“The idea of up to R1 trillion changing hands on his say-so must be simply too good to pass over for a man with his track record. With his time at the helm running out, this Rosatom deal could be the ultimate windfall,” she said.
The co-operation agreement — to supply as many as eight nuclear plants generating up to 9,6GW of power — was announced last Monday in separate but identical statements issued by South Africa’s energy department and Russia’s atomic energy agency Rosatom.
According to reports, Rosatom head Sergey Kiriyenko has estimated the value of the deal at between US$40bn and $50bn, on the basis that a single reactor costs about $5bn.
Government has firmly denied reports that Zuma interfered in the nuclear deal with Russia, or that he had instructed energy minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson to sign it.
“The department wishes to refute all allegations of ‘undue influence’ by the president towards concluding this agreement,” acting director-general Wolsey Barnard said in a statement at the weekend.
He said such allegations were “baseless and at worst ludicrous, and they are purely concocted in order to tarnish the image and integrity of the president and the government of South Africa”.
Zille on Monday maintained Zuma was “brazen” in his attempts to force through the multibillion-rand deal.
“The brazen way in which President Zuma seems to be forcing this deal to go ahead, in spite of the spy tapes and the arms deal charges having come back to haunt him, makes two things very clear: he doesn’t respect the constitution, and he doesn’t fear the electorate.
“Here is a Big Man who thinks he’s safe from scrutiny and safe from prosecution. The fiscus is his to plunder. Deals are his to manipulate.”
Zille warned that should the deal go through, it would destroy the economy.
The National Development Plan and the Integrated Resource Plan both cautioned against such expansion.
“When both the country’s long-term economic blueprints … caution against nuclear expansion, and we’re suddenly buying a trillion rand’s worth, alarm bells should be ringing.
“How on earth does South Africa spend a trillion rand without wrecking our economy and propelling millions of people further into poverty?”
There was no way the South African economy could survive such a deal, Zille said.
“We need affordable solutions [to the country’s energy crisis] in the short to medium-term, not a trillion-rand ‘legacy’ white elephant that our grandchildren will still be paying off.” — Sapa