In a recorded in­ter­view with Thuli Madon­sela, Julius Malema al­leges that Gwede Man­tashe asked the EFF to pile pres­sure on the pres­i­dent to drop the nu­clear deal

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ANC sec­re­tary-gen­eral Gwede Man­tashe al­legedly “pleaded” with Eco­nomic Free­dom Fight­ers (EFF) leader Julius Malema to help him scup­per Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma’s Gupta-linked nu­clear plans when they met to dis­cuss post-mu­nic­i­pal elec­tion coali­tions. In a recorded in­ter­view, con­ducted un­der oath with then pub­lic pro­tec­tor Thuli Madon­sela con­cern­ing her probe into state cap­ture, Malema spoke of a meet­ing he had had with Man­tashe and at least two other EFF col­leagues dur­ing the Au­gust mu­nic­i­pal coali­tion talks. Man­tashe has de­nied Malema’s al­le­ga­tions. Malema told Madon­sela in the Septem­ber 22 in­ter­view that the ANC boss pleaded with the EFF to in­clude the scrap­ping of nu­clear projects as part of its con­di­tions for a coali­tion with the ANC – be­cause the ANC was wor­ried that gov­ern­ment was des­per­ate to ram the deal through at a huge cost to the fis­cus, and it was likely to re­sult in the coun­try’s col­lapse.

“When we were dis­cussing the coali­tions the first per­son we met with was Gwede Man­tashe, alone,” said Malema.

“It was me, Dali [Mpofu, the EFF’s na­tional chair­per­son], Floyd [Shivambu, the EFF’s deputy pres­i­dent] and, I think, Mbuyiseni [Nd­lozi, the EFF’s na­tional spokesper­son] was there. And then we put the con­di­tions ... of work­ing with the ANC.”

He went on to say: “Gwede asked us con­fi­den­tially: ‘Please put the nu­clear deal as part of your con­di­tions’ … And we asked him: ‘Why should we put nu­clear?’ And he said: ‘The nu­clear deal is go­ing to col­lapse the coun­try.’”

In its talks with the ANC, the EFF placed the re­moval of Zuma, the na­tion­al­i­sa­tion of some key in­dus­tries, the ex­pro­pri­a­tion of land, an in­quiry into the Gup­tas and the scrap­ping of the nu­clear deal as among its pre­con­di­tions for co­op­er­a­tion. The ANC re­fused to budge on most of these as they had noth­ing to do with lo­cal gov­ern­ment.

There has been much con­tro­versy over an al­leged un­der­tak­ing by South Africa to al­low the Rus­sians to run the coun­try’s nu­clear power pro­gramme. This was fu­elled by Zuma’s “mys­te­ri­ous” six-day visit to Rus­sia in Au­gust 2014.

Malema’s al­le­ga­tions in­di­cate se­ri­ous con­cerns in the ANC’s se­nior ranks about Zuma’s per­sonal in­ter­ests in the nu­clear deal.

Gov­ern­ment wants to add at least eight nu­clear re­ac­tors, gen­er­at­ing 9 600 megawatts, to its grid.

The aver­age amount of time it takes to con­struct a nu­clear power sta­tion is 10 years. Gov­ern­ment wants the first re­ac­tor to start gen­er­at­ing power from 2023, and for all of them to be com­plete by 2029. The cost of the pro­gramme is likely to ex­ceed R1 tril­lion. Op­po­si­tion par­ties and civil so­ci­ety group­ings have con­tended that one of the rea­sons for the sud­den ax­ing of then fi­nance min­is­ter Nh­lanhla Nene last De­cem­ber was his re­fusal to en­dorse the deal. The EFF told the then pub­lic pro­tec­tor that Nene was re­luc­tant to ap­prove the coun­try’s nu­clear deal, which Zuma wanted ex­pe­dited so that he could ben­e­fit be­fore the end of his pres­i­dency. Ac­cord­ing to Malema, “Gwede said the Rus­sians have got a deal with these guys [Zuma and the Gup­tas]. They have con­firmed the deal and they have paid in ad­vance. And that is why these guys are un­der huge pres­sure to de­liver the nu­clear deal.” The EFF leader said that he later re­vealed the in­for­ma­tion to the me­dia “with au­thor­ity, be­cause it came from the ANC”. The party then added the nu­clear as­pect to its de­mands. “It be­came part of our con­di­tions … That is why Gwede pleaded with me, [say­ing] that: ‘When you are an­gry you must not re­peat this thing and men­tion my name, please.’” In the record­ing, Madon­sela can be heard gig­gling be­fore she says: “And now you are do­ing it.” To which a chuck­ling Malema re­sponds: “No, I’m un­der oath now. There is noth­ing I can do. And you know, it ends here. It is your stuff. It is not pub­lic here.” Asked whether Man­tashe would be com­fort­able to share what he knew about the nu­clear deal, Malema said it was pos­si­ble that he could speak if it were clear that the dis­cus­sion was con­fi­den­tial. “Yeah, I mean you ought to make him feel com­fort­able to that ex­tent ... Make him aware that what­ever he says is within [your pri­vate do­main]. I think if he is made to feel com­fort­able, he will share a lot of in­for­ma­tion on nu­clear”. Man­tashe said on Fri­day that he had never re­ceived com­mu­ni­ca­tion from Madon­sela about the nu­clear deal or the role of Zuma, the Gup­tas and the Rus­sians. He said he was one of “a few peo­ple who have no prob­lems with nu­clear en­ergy”. “If you de­velop nu­clear at a pace and a cost that the coun­try can af­ford, I have no prob­lem. We need nu­clear, but we can­not go for it boots and all,” he said. Man­tashe told City Press that “the real­ity of the mat­ter is that I would not for­mu­late de­mands for the EFF to the ANC”. “As a mat­ter of fact, I can­not. It is the EFF that de­manded we re­move Zuma and so forth. I can­not for­mu­late de­mands to them.” He added: “For ex­am­ple, if the Rus­sians have al­ready paid and I am not part of that, how would I know that? Be­cause the next thing, I imag­ine, you would ask me [would be] how much the Rus­sians have paid and to whom. How would I know how much and who they paid, and to do what?” Man­tashe ad­mit­ted to hav­ing had a meet­ing alone with the EFF lead­ers, but said Malema’s claims were false and in­tended to di­vide the ANC.

Malema said he stood by ev­ery­thing that he told Madon­sela and he was “not go­ing to en­gage in pub­lic mud­sling­ing with Gwede”.

“I did an in­ter­view with the [then] pub­lic pro­tec­tor. That is it. I am no longer go­ing to en­gage on that thing. That is me [in the record­ing]. The per­son you hear there is me,” he said.

In the in­ter­view, Malema also told Madon­sela that while he did not have de­tails on the al­leged ad­vance pay­ment made to Zuma by the Rus­sians, it was clear the pres­i­dent was “un­der pres­sure” to de­liver the nu­clear deal.

“And you can­not be un­der pres­sure if you did not take peo­ple’s money. You can just tell them that it is not work­ing. Be­cause the real­ity of the sit­u­a­tion is that nu­clear is go­ing to cost us tril­lions,” Malema told Madon­sela.

He ob­served that “the na­ture of gov­ern­ment spend­ing is such that if it was to cost us R1 tril­lion, it will end up cost­ing us R7 tril­lion. And in ser­vic­ing that, it means the whole fis­cus will have to be di­rected to the nu­clear deal. That is how Gwede pleaded with us that the im­me­di­ate threat we need to stop is this nu­clear – be­cause it will col­lapse this coun­try.”

Malema said Zuma’s des­per­a­tion was ev­i­dent in the de­ci­sion to fire for­mer fi­nance min­is­ter Nene “be­cause he was not pre­pared to sign the deal”. Yet, added Malema, de­spite Zuma hav­ing come un­der fire for Nene’s dis­missal, “he is still in­sist­ing on cap­tur­ing this depart­ment”.

Re­fer­ring to Zuma, Malema said: “This thing is cost­ing you your ca­reer. Every­body is on your case be­cause you want to take this depart­ment. Some­body else would have let go. But it would not be easy to let go if you have taken peo­ple’s money. So they are des­per­ately look­ing for the deal to go through.”

He is also recorded as say­ing he had in­for­ma­tion from Deputy Fi­nance Min­is­ter Mce­bisi Jonas that Zuma had sought le­gal opin­ion on the de­sir­abil­ity of mov­ing the nu­clear pro­gramme from the depart­ment of en­ergy to the se­cu­rity cluster.

Trea­sury spokesper­son Yolisa Tyantsi said: “Na­tional Trea­sury does not have any knowl­edge of the is­sue and has never been part of such dis­cus­sions.”

Pres­i­dency spokesper­son Bon­gani Ngqu­lunga said that, “as an­nounced by the min­is­ter of fi­nance in the medium-term bud­get, the scale and phases of the nu­clear power pro­gramme as well as the pro­cure­ment ar­range­ments will be con­ducted in a man­ner that best serves South Africa’s in­ter­ests and will also be trans­par­ent and com­pli­ant with the law”.

Julius Malema

Gwede Man­tashe

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