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Eskom has distanced itself from an apparent rushed attempt to invigorate South Africa’s nuclear programme, after it was halted by the Cape Town High Court earlier this year.
Loyiso Tyabashe, the acting general manager of Eskom’s nuclear new build programme, said in an affidavit the state utility has in no way violated the court’s judgement and would not proceed with the procurement of nuclear unless it is lawfully designated.
Earth Life Africa and the Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute (Safcei) plan to approach the High Court in Cape Town on Wednesday in a bid to stop Energy Minister David Mahlobo in proceeding with the controversial nuclear energy deal.
This comes after Safcei and Earth Life Africa won a crucial court victory over government and Eskom in April, which set aside the nuclear procurement programme.
The two organisations are seeking an urgent interdict ordering the government to comply with the judgement, after public statements by Mahlobo that the nuclear programme could be fast-tracked without a public-participation process.
If any evidence surfaces that steps had been taken, despite the earlier judgement, Safcei wants both Eskom and the energy ministry to be held in contempt of court.
City Press reported on Sunday that Mahlobo was pushing for the finalisation of the integrated energy resource plan four months ahead of schedule, so that he could forge ahead with his plans for nuclear.
Safcei and Earthlife Africa asked that Mahlobo and Eskom provide written reports on the steps they have taken, as well as their future plans in the procurement of new nuclear power, and provide details on the intergovernmental agreements signed or set to be signed.
Tyabashe, however, said that Eskom has already committed itself to act in future compliance with the judgement and that there was no need for an order to compel the state utility to do so. He disavowed “under oath” that any procurement related activities would take place that could violate the April judgement.
He asked that the two NGO’s withdraw the relief sought against Eskom “on the basis that it is not necessary or justified”.
Eskom’s response comes after Safcei co-ordinator Liz McDaid argued in an affidavit that the civic organisations harboured a reasonable apprehension that Eskom had embarked, “or imminently intends embarking” on a course of action to procure new nuclear power plants, directly in conflict with April’s judgement.
But Tyabashe argued that it had in no way violated the judgement and that it is no longer the designated procurer, by virtue of the April judgement.
In her affidavit McDaid stated that two incidents, relating to Eskom, alarmed the NGO’s to the notion that Eskom could possibly be violating the April court order.
The first was a media statement attributed to Eskom spokesperson Khulu Phasiwe in City Press on November 5 that stated if the integrated resources plan showed the nuclear programme could go ahead, the tender process would begin immediately.
Tyabashe said Phasiwe’s comments were misinterpreted, and later corrected by Fin24 in a report on the same day.
The second was Eskom’s unwillingness to give a written undertaking that it had not started the programme afresh.
Tyabashe said Eskom could not provide a written undertaking, because the notice was too short and that after the current application was lodged, it had to draw up an affidavit on the same issue. He said his affidavit should lay the fears to rest.
McDaid highlighted in her statement that no steps could be taken, because April’s court ruling means that until there is a lawful determination in terms of the Electricity Regulation Act, approved by the National Energy Regulator of SA (Nersa) the procurement process could not be restarted.
Also a public participation process will have to take place, before any procurement process could proceed.