High Court to intervene in ‘rushed deal’
TWO civil society watchdogs have hauled Minister of Energy David Mahlobo and Eskom back to court over their “rushed nuclear deal”.
On Thursday, Earthlife Africa Johannesburg (ELAJHB) and the Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute (SAFCEI) launched an urgent application in the Western Cape High Court.
This was “a further attempt to halt what appears to be a rush” by government in decision-making over the nuclear energy deal.
The organisations first approached the Western Cape High Court in October 2015, which in a judgment in April this year set aside nuclear agreements signed by the government with Russia, the US and South Korea.
Last week, the NGOs asked Mahlobo, Minister of Public Enterprises Lynne Brown, Nersa and Eskom to confirm their commitment following the legal process of public consultation on any proposed nuclear deals.
But although the government had until Monday to respond, they supplied no meaningful responses and the two organisations were now asking the high court to order the relevant parties to comply.
“The Minister of Energy’s utterances recently imply that the finalisation of the Integrated Resource Plan and the nuclear programme are being fast-tracked, yet the government has failed to implement the necessary public participation required by the court judgment that was delivered on April 26, 2017.”
In court papers, they state how the April judgment declared a series of steps taken by the government between 2013 and 2016 in furtherance of its nuclear power procurement programme to be unlawful, unconstitutional and invalid.
“Yet the applicants have a reasonable apprehension that the government has indeed embarked, or imminently intends embarking, on a course of action to procure nuclear power plans directly in conflict with this court’s judgment.
“Despite being called upon to give undertakings to confirm that this is not the case, none of the government respondents have given any assurances that they will not.
“On the contrary, their public pronouncements are to the effect they are urgently readying themselves to take immediate steps to call for tenders for the procurement of nuclear energy.
“Aside from it being unlawful, there is neither need for nor capacity to commit to the procurement of nuclear energy at this time.”
The two organisations are asking the court to declare that no steps may be taken for the procurement of new electricity generation capacity, derived from nuclear power.
Second, the court will also be asked to direct Mahlobo and Eskom to provide written reports on what steps they have taken, and the future steps they intend taking, in relation to the procurement of new capacity derived from nuclear power.
“Should the evidence confirm that the minister or Eskom have taken any steps that are in contempt of the judgment from April this year, the court will be asked to grant the applicants’ leave to ask for an order of contempt of court.”
Responding to Earthlife-Africa’s notice of intended court action to oppose the recent government decision to approve the Duynefontein site near Koeberg nuclear, Necsa chief executive Phumzile Tshelane said this week: “I appeal to organisations such as Earthlife Africa to be honest in their public utterance and to stop the constant distortion.”