- The government cannot afford to expand the country’s nuclear power operations at present but remains open to possible future deals with Russia
- This was the assessment of ANC treasurer-general Paul Mashatile
- Mashatile said the government would be cautious about any future expansion and was not looking for a ‘big-bang approach’
The South African government cannot afford to expand the country’s nuclear power operations at the current time but remains open to possible future deals with Russia, this is according to African National Congress (ANC) treasurer-general Paul Mashatile.
Mashatile was speaking at a business forum linked with the 2018 BRICS summit in Johannesburg. He said the government would be cautious about any future nuclear expansion and was not looking for a ‘big-bang approach’ to expanding the country’s nuclear power capacity.
Mashatile said the government would assess the merits of any future nuclear deals and if those deals proved to be cost effective and value for money they would be given proper consideration.
Briefly.co.za gathered that Mashatile might not be active in the government but as one of the ANC’s top six leaders, he is one of the most powerful people in the country in terms of influencing the economic policies which are ultimately adopted by the government.
President Cyril Ramaphosa scrapped the highly-controversial and immensely costly nuclear deal which was being chased by former president Jacob Zuma. The former president seemed to defy all logic in his attempt to have the nuclear deal with Russia passed.
Zuma defied a court order and the wishes of the ANC to abandon the project and continued to chase the deal. Some even speculated that Zuma's last cabinet reshuffle was done at the insistence of the Russian government in order to save the deal.
Zuma's appointment of David Mahlobo as energy minister was highly controversial and it was thought Mahlobo would fast-track the nuclear deal which his predecessor had tried to block.
Ramaphosa decided to abandon the deal because he said the country could not afford it and did not actually need the power capacity which the project would have provided.
EWN.co.za reported that Mashatile echoed this sentiment and said the original deal which would have provided around 10,000 megawatts was much too ambitious in terms of capacity and cost.
He said any possible future deal would be a lot smaller in terms of scale and cost and would have to provide exceptional value for money to justify its cost.
Mashatile also discussed Eskom and said the government was looking at possibly dividing Eskom’s various operations in order to help stem losses at the power utility which totalled R2.3 billion for the last financial year.
Mashatile said the government would intensify efforts to secure greater private sector investment in Eskom.
This comes after President Cyril Ramaphosa recently secured around $20 billion in investment from Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
These investments will be largely in the energy sector and in particular will increase the country's renewable energy capacity. At least R10 billion of that investment will be used to build new wind and solar farms.
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