Why Zuma wouldn’t go

President Jacob Zuma

By now you would have gathered that one of President Jacob Zuma’s main priorities was to set up a nuclear deal between SA and Russia.

“Ignoring for the moment the obviously important issues that this is the most expensive form of power available, it is unaffordable now and will be more unaffordable when built due to inevitable budget overruns (as is normal in all Russian nuclear projects) and the procurement process has been illegal (as per the recent course case), what matters is that the nuclear deal has emerged from the depths of the shadow state system.”  So says the Betrayal of the Promise report.

The report adds that the Gupta family bought its uranium mine because it assumed a nuclear deal would be done, “and there is evidence that Russian intelligence has a presence in the Presidency to guide the process.”

“To ensure effective support for the nuclear deal, intelligence capabilities have been boosted that are now interfaced with the Gupta networks that brokered the shadow state transaction to pave the way for the nuclear deal,” the report continues.

“There are allegations that one set of transactions involved Russian funding for the local government elections, which may explain where the ANC managed to find R1 billion for this campaign.”

As the report points out, the nuclear deal also became central to the consolidation of a new framework for radical economic transformation.

“If the nuclear deal is implemented, this will signify the final consolidation of Zuma’s rent-seeking system as the glue that binds together the constitutional and shadow states. It is reasonable to assume that the Russians have linked the approval of the nuclear deal to major investment initiatives in the future that could be useful for shoring up support of black business.”

According to the CSIR, in 2016 the price of renewable energy was 62c/KwH over the life cycle, compared to coal which was R1.03 – R1.20/KwH and nuclear was R1.30/KwH over the life cycle.

The CSIR expected that the nuclear energy option could result in an increased annual cost of R90 billion compared to the cost of renewable energy.

“There is, therefore, no economic rationale for building nuclear power plants in South Africa. Many experts and commentators now argue that the only reason the Zuma-centred power elite push the nuclear option is because it creates an opportunity to extract rents on a massive scale while giving the Russians the strategic advantage they aim to achieve in building all their nuclear power plants.”

The Russians are – after all – constructing nuclear power plants in 30 countries at present.

“As one commentator put it, a Russian nuclear plant is a ‘combination of an embassy and military base’ – to this one can add another advantage: they give Russia financial control of the economy if the financing was done by issuing a sovereign guarantee, “ the report adds.

Obviously, Russia wants to see a return on the money it has supposedly thrown at the Zuma government – and that’s where Zuma’s problems begin. After all, would you want to get on the wrong side of Russia’s Vladimir Putin?

If you follow the news on Twitter as I do, you would have noted that – just a few days ago – journalists managed to track the Gupta jet to St Petersburg.  And then, the Department of Energy tweeted for all the world to see, an image of  SA’s Energy Minister, David Mhlobo with the Russian Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Sergey Donsky, at the Mining Indaba in Cape Town.

The EFF’s Floyd Shivambu responded by tweeting: “It looks like the postponement after postponement was meant to close the nuclear deal with the Russians. The new administration must discontinue the whole thing as urgent as possible or face consequences.”

And then came the reply from the Department of Energy: “The Ministry of Energy wishes to dismiss with contempt comments made by Hon Shivambu insinuating that the Minister of Energy’s meeting with Minister Sergy Donsky … was about a nuclear deal.”

It’s time to join the dots: Had a nuclear deal already been signed and sealed, it would have been a lot easier for the ANC to push Jacob Zuma out of the presidency.  It’s probably true to say that the 783 corruption charges against Zuma may well be the least of his worries.

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