It was also odd that the transaction involved Rosatom’s mining subsidiary.
Because the buyers did not have the finance to conclude the purchase, they approached state-linked agencies to attempt to raise the funding. The mine was eventually purchased through a R250 million loan from the Industrial Development Corporation.
The questions that remain unanswered are:
What were the exact details surrounding the mine purchase, and what was Rosatom’s role in this transaction?
And,Did ex-president Zuma or other high-ranking officials unduly pressure funding bodies to grant a loan for the mine acquisition?
The Russian agreement
Zuma’s many meetings with his Russian counterparts resulted in the Russian bidders inexplicably receiving preferential status ahead of other potential bidders. This engagement produced an astounding intergovernmental agreement, signed by then Energy Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson.
After a court challenge from civil society organisations, the Russian agreement was declared illegal. But this didn’t stop government efforts towards the realisation of a Russian-led nuclear build.
Here the unanswered questions are:
Why did Joemat-Pettersson sign an agreement she must have known to be unprocedural and irregular?
Which officials were instrumental in promoting this agreement, and who instructed them?
Ministerial reshuffles and redeployments
The last period of Zuma’s presidency was characterised by the drama of frequent cabinet reshuffles.
National Treasury was at the centre of the reshuffle storm. But the Ministry of Energy was equally afflicted by frequent transitions, with five ministers throughout Zuma’s presidency.
The unanswered questions to the finance and energy ministries are:
Were two finance ministers and a string of ministers dismissed because they were opposed to the nuclear build, or not pushing it vigorously enough?
Were these dismissals initiated by ex-president Zuma, or enacted at the request of other parties?
Connecting the remaining dots
The inquiry will undoubtedly investigate the infiltration and abuse of the national power utility Eskom, which also manages South Africa’s nuclear power facilities. I
In recent years the previously neutral entity had increasingly taken on the role of a nuclear lobbyist.
A key question here is:
Was the obsessive promotion of the nuclear build by several Eskom leaders driven by a genuine belief in the technology and its affordability, or by pressure?
It’s important to know what happened, and how, if South Africa is going to be able to put processes in place that ensure the entire energy sector never becomes compromised again.
- HARTMUT WINKLER: Professor of Physics, University of Johannesburg
- This article was first published in The Conversation.