Russian nuclear medicine deal signed to avoid 'political embarrassment'

10 December 2018 - 07:38 By KARYN MAUGHAN
Energy minister Jeff Radebe. File photo
Energy minister Jeff Radebe. File photo

The ousted chair of the Nuclear Energy Corporation of SA (Necsa) has admitted  to signing a Russian nuclear medicine deal against the orders of energy minister Jeff Radebe but says he did so to avoid “political embarrassment”.

Kelvin Kemm’s admission comes in response to Radebe on Friday firing the Necsa board and placing the corporation’s CEO, Phumzile Tshelane, on precautionary suspension. Kemm, Tshelane and ousted Necsa board member Pamela Bosman will  on Monday morning file an urgent application to reverse Radebe’s decision.

 In an affidavit that forms part of his bid to reverse his axing,  Kemm maintains that he was advised only on the morning of the signing ceremony in July that Radebe did not agree to the deal with Rusatom Healthcare, a subsidiary of Russian nuclear agency Rosatom. The ceremony took place alongside the Brics summit in Johannesburg, which was attended by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“That belated and unexpected communication placed me in a dilemma,” Kemm states in the affidavit. “By that stage, the media had already been invited to the signing ceremony and the issue had already been publicised in the morning news.

“I also justifiably believed that it would have been politically embarrassing for the signing ceremony not to have occurred, more particularly with the Russian president across the road ... extolling the co-operation between SA and Russia ...

“Desirous of avoiding criticism for not conforming with the Brics agenda and for undermining SA'srelationship with Russia in a public forum, I decided to go ahead with signing.”

In court papers, Kemm said he informed the minister of the “proposed co-operation agreement” between Necsa and Rusatom Healthcare in letters on May 7 and June 6 2018,as well as through WhatsApp messages in March, April and May 2018.

He added there was “largely silence” from Radebe in response to his and Tshelane’s communications about a co-operation deal with Rusatom Healthcare, “which was reasonably understood to be distinct from opposition”.