FutureSA is calling for a national referendum on nuclear energy, to enable national participation and direct decision-making by South Africans on this crucial issue.
This follows concerns expressed by civil society groupings around a planned energy indaba in December which FutureSA fears may become a pseudo consultation process on nuclear energy.
Minister of Energy David Mahlobo recently announced plans to convene the energy indaba, where the country’s revised integrated resource plan will be discussed.
The indaba will include focus on nuclear energy, which has thus far been met with opposition from civil society and a range of environmental organisations, for various reasons including high costs, the lack of transparency around the nuclear deal, and environmental factors.
This week, Earthlife Africa and the Southern Africa Faith Communities’ Environmental Institute raised their concerns in court around pronouncements on nuclear energy, expressing fears that government may not adhere to a previous court ruling on the matter specifying public consultation. It is commendable that the groups have taken such action, and that they have compelled Mahlobo to give assurances that due process will be followed in relation to the nuclear deal.
However, FutureSA remains concerned that most South Africans may not have an opportunity to themselves decide on such a critical matter.
“FutureSA lends its voice to those who have expressed concerns about the indaba being used as a whitewashing initiative – it may be used to try and create an impression that there has been consultation on nuclear energy. But a single indaba on the issue cannot be deemed as sufficient consultation on such an important issue, with fundamental implications for the future.
“True consultation should include the broadest possible form of participation by all South Africans,” said FutureSA Convener, Mandla Nkomfe.
“We have seen how lack of transparency which created an environment for shady deals in relation to the arms procurement process has dragged our country through years of controversy and legal wrangles.”
“We have also seen how insufficient public consultation around issues, such as e-tolling, has been met with public opposition. In the case of nuclear energy, costs will have to be borne by all South Africans. As such, the decision to implement an energy programme involving nuclear should be made by all South Africans eligible to vote.
“It is for this reason that we call for a referendum on nuclear energy,” said Nkomfe.
“There are numerous benefits that can come out of the process of a referendum. Voters would want to know the full scope of what a nuclear energy programme will entail - the negatives and positives - in order to support or oppose it. A more aware electorate will ensure that sufficient pressure is placed on government to avail the public of all information related to nuclear energy. The process will also ensure that those who advocate nuclear energy will openly have to debate with those who oppose it, and who believe that renewable energy is both cheaper and safer. A referendum is democracy in action,” added FutureSA patron and environmental activist, Kumi Naidoo.
“FutureSA remains deeply concerned that despite lack of expert consensus on South Africa’s medium to long term energy requirements, successive finance ministers indicating that South Africa does not have money for nuclear energy, issues raised by environmental rights groups regarding the benefits of alternative renewable and sustainable sources of energy, and differing views by parliamentarians regarding the safety and efficacy of nuclear energy, certain individuals within government still seem intent on pushing through a nuclear agenda. It does leave us wondering whose interest these individuals really represent,” Nkomfe stated.
“If they indeed have the interest of ordinary South Africans at heart, then a referendum on an issue which directly affects people should not be a problem at all.”
Issued on behalf of FutureSA