When a government department issues a bombshell press statement about a nuclear deal the size of the entire South African budget, and no one in the department except the Minister seems to know about it, alarm bells should be ringing.
When the same contentious statement is issued verbatim and simultaneously by the Russian nuclear vendor in question, confirming the deal, alarm bells should be ringing.
When the Minister then scrambles the following day to release a second statement that suddenly mentions possible future agreements with other countries, and omits the bits about the Russian done deal, alarm bells should be ringing.
When our President puts himself in charge of nuclear shopping, replaces an “uncooperative” Energy Minister with a proven loyalist, and then conducts all the Russian negotiations in secret, alarm bells should be ringing.
When both South Africa’s long-term economic blueprint, the National Development Plan (NDP), and its energy framework document, the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), caution against nuclear expansion, and we’re suddenly buying a trillion Rand’s worth, alarm bells should be ringing.
But most importantly of all – when our economy is struggling to get out of first gear, when families are reeling from six consecutive energy price hikes to fund existing expansion builds (which are years behind and tens of billions of Rands over budget), and we’re now talking about a new trillion Rand spend that can only be paid from electricity tariffs, alarm bells should be ringing very loudly.
There are many unanswered questions around this deal, but let’s start with the biggest one of all:
How on earth can South Africa spend a trillion Rand without wrecking our economy and propelling millions of people further into poverty?