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Questions raised over former minister’s signature on nuclear procurement notice

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As questions are raised by opposition parties over former energy minister Ben Martins’ signature on the recently gazetted notice to move ahead with the nuclear procurement programme, Martins has apparently taken to Twitter to comment on the matter.

The Democratic Alliance has questioned why Martins signed off the gazetted decision and why the Cabinet decision was dated 11 November 2013.

“For two years government and subsequent Energy Minister Joemat-Pettersson have consistently peddled the line that Cabinet had not approved the nuclear procurement process which will cost South Africa unaffordable billions of rands,” DA MP Gordhan Mackay said in a statement.

“It is clear that the decision to spend up to R1 trillion on nuclear builds was taken in 2013, and therefore engagements with foreign nuclear suppliers have been more serious than Tina Joemat-Pettersson would disclose.”

A Twitter account apparently belonging to Martins posted a series of eight tweets on the notice.

One said: “My term of duty as the minister of energy was from 10th July 2013 – 25th May 2014,” while another said: “I note government gazette, no. 39541 of 21 December 2015, it was not discussed with me.”

The tweets also mention the Integrated Resource Plan for Electricity 2010-2030 and that the “department accepted option 4.3a [of the plan] committing to a full nuclear fleet of 9 600MW.”

Other tweets mentioned that “the legal process was followed in terms of the electricity regulation act, section 34” which “empowers the minister to issue determinations” .

The Twitter account said National Energy Regulator of SA (Nersa) “concurrence” was required by law and was obtained.

The notice released by the Department of Energy on December 21 confirmed Cabinet’s decision to move ahead with the 9 600 MW nuclear procurement programme.

This means the department can now call for quotes for the tendering process to begin.

Russia, China, France and South Korea, Canada and Japan are all vying to win the main nuclear contract, while there are also opportunities for local companies to win contracts for various infrastructure and construction tenders.

The above countries, excluding Japan and Canada, signed intergovernmental agreements this year ahead of the tender process. The two outstanding countries were planning on signing these agreements too.

Until this point, there has been no official word from government that it had decided to move ahead with the programme. Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, however, indicated in his opening address as minister that government would proceed with a formal procurement process, only if it was affordable.

Business Day reported on December 14 that Cabinet approved the decision to go ahead just hours before Nhlanhla Nene was removed from his position as finance minister on December 9.

Analysts believe Nene was ousted for stalling the nuclear build programme, saying it was too expensive in the current economic climate.

The Economic Freedom Fighters said on Thursday that it did not matter which finance minister was in charge.

“The gazette was signed in 2013 when Pravin Gordhan who is thought to be the savior of SA’s fiscus was minister of finance,” spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said. News24

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