It was David and Goliath. With sling shot in hand, two tiny human rights groups, Earthlife Africa Johannesburg (ELA) and the Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute (SAFCEI), stood in the way of the Goliath that is the deal to build nuclear that could cost more than a R1 trillion ($73 billion).
It was a court battle that raged for a year and a half. On April 26, the ELA and SAFCEI lawyers stood face-to-face with government counsel in the Western Cape High Court, Cape Town. The ELA and SAFCEI disputed the costly procurement process, saying it was illegal and nontransparent.
On this day, Goliath crumpled and activists danced and sang in victory on the sidewalk outside the court. The celebration was blessed by a downpour in this drought-ridden city.
Judge Lee Bozalek declared the South African government’s nuclear deal to be unlawful and unconstitutional. Most important was the scrapping of secret intergovernmental agreements with Russia, the United States and South Korea, which the activists argued was the right of the public to know.
“Victory for justice and the rule of law and the people of South Africa,” says Makoma Lekalakala, ELA branch coordinator.
Other key decisions made by government were found to be illegal, including its decision to hand over procurement of nuclear to Eskom, South Africa’s state power utility, rather than the National Energy Regulator of South Africa.
“All the information that people have been requiring on affordability etc. must come into the public realm. We need to know exactly what is going on with the deal and it needs to happen in a transparent and open process as the government has repeatedly said it would do, but keep not doing,” says Adrian Pole, lawyer for SAFCEI and ELA.
It means back to the drawing board for nuclear energy in South Africa. From now on any nuclear proposals will need to be passed in Parliament and opened up to the public, which could take years.
“It’s been a long hard struggle. We are only two small organizations but this is really a victory for democracy. It means the people of South Africa can now participate in their future. There is no more nuclear deal, there is no more Russian agreement. Parliament has to step up. If the president wants to push any more deals it has to go through Parliament properly and any idea we might go nuclear is off the table,” says Liz McDaid, SAFCEI spokesperson.
McDaid has more reason to celebrate than most. She was there from day one, when the human rights groups announced they would take down the deal in court from a small room in a backstreet office with a handful of journalists in Newtown, Johannesburg.
Another organization standing against the deal is the Organization Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA). Ted Blom, OUTA’s Energy Portfolio Director, believes the expense alone could have crippled the country.
“We are tired of government’s approach that runs roughshod over the need for meaningful public engagement and due process. The pro-nuclear lobbyists and government officials arrogantly ignore their need to be accountable and to provide detailed explanations to the public on why we need new nuclear plants, or what the true costs of these will be,” adds Wayne Duvenage, OUTA Chairperson.
Studies showed the nuclear deal to be unaffordable, despite what government believes, argues David Fig, a Political Economist and Honorary Research Associate at the University of Cape Town. He notes that the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) developed models showing that new nuclear is likely to be much more expensive than coal or renewable energy.
“The price ticket for nuclear – which some estimates put at more than R1 trillion – doesn’t take into account the costs of operation, fuel, insurance, emergency planning or the regulation or decontamination at the end of the life of the reactors,” he writes in The Conversation.
The nuclear deal, overseen by South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma, is also muddied by allegations of corruption, according to Fig.
“A more likely reason for Zuma’s zeal is the involvement of the Gupta family with whom he has close ties. The family’s web of interests around the nuclear deal is complex. What is known is that the Gupta family controls South Africa’s only dedicated uranium mine. The family has developed close relationships with key individuals at Eskom,” says Fig.
On the other side of the argument, there is a claim the ruling is an overstatement. Kelvin Kemm, Chairperson of the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation (Necsa), called for caution when interpreting it. The nuclear physicist argues that the court ruled on an administrative process, not on the wisdom of nuclear power.
“A false impression has been created that this judgment is anti-nuclear. It is not and comment to that effect is premature and regrettable,” says Kemm.
“One positive aspect of this ruling is that it presents the opportunity for the facts and truth to be fully aired and debated so that rational people can think and decide on realities not hearsay. The anti-nuke lobby has had the platform to themselves, not least because the nuclear industry has been quiet. This will change. Necsa and the nuclear industry intend to step up efforts to put the facts before the court of public opinion and to present a balanced and evidence-based case for nuclear energy as the right energy option for South Africa.”
“The nuclear industry in South Africa operates to the highest global business and ethical standards and applies world best practice to planning and operational procedures. To suggest that those working within it adhere to anything less is at best inaccurate and a great disservice to a highly professional body of experts.”
Government says it will look over the judgment before it decides whether to appeal.
The battle over nuclear is far from over, but the victors are likely to redouble their campaign after they have dried off from their dance in the rain.
Coca Cola South Africa Improves SME Role In Value Chain
Coca Cola Beverages South Africa (CCBSA) launches an R20 million fund for small supplier development and procurement, annually, for the next five years.
This was announced by the Financial Director, Walter Leonhardt at Gallagher Convention Centre at the third annual Supplier Development Conference.
CCBS is the South African-based subsidiary of Coca-Cola Beverages Africa (CCBA).
Leonhardt said the purpose of this fund is to assist young upcoming black entrepreneurs in the Coca-Cola value chain.
“We are, today, launching the CCBSA supplier fund of access to funding. To address the issue of access to funding which most SMEs experience,” said Leonhardt.
This will enable the entrepreneurs’ procurement process to be easier.
“It is to help them buy equipment, fund working capital and to help them overcome something we have identified as a challenge for upcoming businesses, which is access to capital on quit lenient terms,” said Leonhardt.
Budding entrepreneurs can visit their website to find out how they can access the funds.
There were over 120 suppliers of CCBSA in attendance.
Managing director of CCBSA Velaphi Ratshefola said they spent R2.35 billion last year, supporting 567 black-owned suppliers, of whom, 265 were black female owned suppliers.
“So for me, it is clear that this is working. We have helped create a very inclusive economy. We need to play our part and we need to ensure that only through an inclusive growing economy we can create a stable environment where businesses can flourish.
“If we do not have a stable environment, a stable economy, we will have a lot of disturbances which are never good for business,” said Ratshefola.
“So for all of us, we should not do it just for social reasons, we must do it for the success of businesses and imperative,” said Ratshefola.
Zimbabwe Central Bank Borrows $985 Million From African Banks
Zimbabwe’s Reserve Bank has borrowed $985 million from African banks to purchase fuel and other critical imports with current reserves covering imports for just four weeks, underscoring the severity of dollar shortages, governor John Mangudya said.
The southern African nation last month ditched a discredited 1:1 dollar peg for its surrogate bond notes and electronic dollars, merging them into a lower-value transitional currency called the RTGS dollar.
Mangudya said the central bank borrowed $641 million from the African Export and Import Bank, $152 million from Eastern and Southern African Trade and Development Bank, and $25 million from Mozambique’s central bank, among others.
The loans, which would be repaid from future gold earnings, have a tenure of between three and five years and attract an interest of up to 6 percent above the Libor rate, Mangudya said.
Gold is Zimbabwe’s single biggest mineral export earner, accounting for a third of its $4.2 billion earnings last year after a record output, central bank data shows.
“These loans are well structured facilities contracted last year. They will be paid from future (gold) export receivables,” Mangudya told a parliamentary committee.
The central bank takes 45 percent of dollar sales from gold producers and half from other miners to fund imports like fuel and power and repay foreign loans.
But the miners only have 30 days to keep their dollar balances in local foreign currency accounts, after which they must sell them. The companies have asked the central bank to extend the period they may keep their dollars to 90 days, according to mining executives.
Unable to get funding from foreign lenders like the International Monetary Fund and World Bank due to arrears of more than $2.4 billion, Zimbabwe has looked to financiers from the continent and local banks to shore up its budget.
The central bank chief said Zimbabwe had just $500 million in reserves, enough to purchase four weeks’ worth of imports.
Mangudya said government borrowing from the central bank reached $2.99 billion in December, about three times its permissible overdraft limit.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government has promised to curb borrowing in 2019 under reforms to revive the southern African economy, after the budget deficit soared last year following a spike in spending ahead of elections.
Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube said last week that the local RTGS dollar, Zimbabwe’s new de facto currency, will be backed up with fiscal discipline and the government would allow it to fluctuate but would manage excessive volatility.
On the interbank forex market on Monday, one U.S. dollar fetched 2.5 RTGS dollars, the same rate as on Feb. 22 when the central bank sold some dollars to banks. That compares to a rate of 3.5 RTGS dollars per U.S. dollar on the black market. -Reuters
Volvo To Limit Car Speeds In Bid For Zero Deaths
Volvo Cars said on Monday it will introduce a 180 km per hour (112 mph) speed limiter on all new vehicles as the Swedish automaker seeks to burnish its safety credentials and meet a pledge to eliminate passenger fatalities by 2020.
While Volvo, whose XC90 flagship SUV currently has a top speed of 212 km/h, has made progress on its so-called “Vision 2020” target of zero deaths or serious injuries, Chief Executive Hakan Samuelsson said it is unlikely to meet the goal without additional measures to address driver behavior.
“We’ve realized that to close the gap we have to focus more on the human factors,” Samuelsson said. Volvo did not elaborate on the data but said its passenger fatalities were already well below the industry average before the goal was announced in 2007.
In addition to the speed cap, Volvo plans to deploy technology using cameras that monitor the driver’s state and attentiveness to prevent people driving while distracted or intoxicated, two other big factors in accidents, Samuelsson said.
The company is also looking at lower geo-fenced speed limits to slow cars around sensitive pedestrian areas such as schools, while seeking to “start a conversation” among automakers and regulators about how technology can be used to improve safety.
Volvo, which is owned by China’s Geely, announced the new speed limitation policy on the eve of the Geneva auto show, where its new Polestar performance electric-car brand is showcasing its second model, the Polestar 2.
While Volvo buyers often choose the brand for its safety, Samuelsson conceded that the speed cap could be a turn-off for a few in markets such as Germany, where drivers routinely travel at 200 km/h or more on unrestricted autobahns.
“We cannot please everybody, but we think we will attract new customers,” the CEO said, recalling that the roll-out of three-point seat belts pioneered by Volvo in 1959 had initially been criticized by some as intrusive.
“I think Volvo customers in Germany will appreciate that we’re doing something about safety,” he said. -Reuters
– Laurence Frost; additional reporting by Esha Vaish
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