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South Africa: No Nuclear Energy Option – for Now At Least

analysisBy Hartmut Winkler, University of Johannesburg

A South African court has ruled that critical aspects of the country’s nuclear procurement process are illegal and unconstitutional. The outcome is a significant setback for a network of entities that had been aggressively promoting a 9.6 GW nuclear expansion programme in the face of popular opposition.

Over the past four weeks controversy over the proposed nuclear build has reached new highs. This was sparked by a major cabinet reshuffle in which President Jacob Zuma ousted both his finance and energy ministers, replacing them with individuals regarded as pro-nuclear.

The reshuffle prompted some of the largest and most diverse street protests since the dawn of the country’s democracy in 1994. While many factors contributed to the outpouring of public anger against the president, the nuclear question was a common motif in the protests.

Opposition to the nuclear expansion programme centred on two points: the first was its prohibitive costs – some estimates put it at R 1 trillion which is roughly equivalent to the government’s total annual tax revenue.

The second is that it has become contaminated by allegations of corruption, with evidence pointing to politically connected groups and individuals benefiting handsomely from it.

Back to the drawing board

The court’s ruling in effect means that the planners will have to go back to the drawing board.

The case in the Western Cape High Court was brought by two civil society organisations, Earthlife Africa and the Southern African Faith Communities’ Environmental Institute (SAFCEI).

The most far reaching aspects of the judgment were that it overturned ministerial proclamations made in 2013 and 2016 that enabled the development of 9.6 GW of nuclear power. It furthermore invalidated the intergovernmental nuclear collaboration agreements South Africa had signed with Russia, the US and South Korea.

The court’s ruling on the promulgations was damning and unambiguous.

South Africa’s Electricity Regulation Act requires the Minister of Energy to promulgate any energy generating capacity expansion through the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA). The regulator is required to vet the proclamation to ensure that it is in the public interest.

The Minister of Energy issued two promulgations to establish 9.6 GW of nuclear energy generation. The first one was concluded in 2013 but only made public two years later. The second one, which delegated the nuclear procurement to the state electricity utility Eskom, whose leadership is strongly pro-nuclear, was hurriedly and stealthily implemented in 2016 on the eve of the first sitting of Western Cape High Court on the matter.

Neither of these proclamations allowed a public participation process.

The court ruled that both promulgations were illegal and unconstitutional. It found that the regulator had failed to carry out its mandate because it had endorsed the minister’s directives uncritically and hurriedly. In doing so it had not allowed public input nor had it considered the necessity of the nuclear build or the consequences of its delegation to Eskom.

The court was equally clear on the collaboration agreements. Unlike the relatively vague agreements concluded with the US and South Korea, the Russian agreement had a great deal more detail in it. It specifically committed South Africa to build nuclear power plants using Russian technology, set out a timeframe and placed specific liabilities on South Africa.

South Africa’s constitution stipulates that international agreements that will have a substantive impact on the country must be approved by parliament. The agreement with Russia clearly falls into this category and therefore needed to be submitted to parliament for debate and approval.

The judge was unequivocal that by slipping the Russian agreement through parliament as a routine matter for noting, the former Energy Minister Joemat-Petterssen had committed a gross error. In his judgment he said:

It follows that the Minister’s decision to table the agreement in terms of section 231(3) was, at the very least, irrational. At best the minister appears to have either failed to apply her mind to the requirements of sec 231(2) in relation to the contents of the Russian IGA or at worst to have deliberately bypassed its provisions for an ulterior and unlawful purpose.

This could open the door for further action against the minister as well as Zuma, who, according to the court papers, instructed her to sign the Russian agreement.

The US agreement was concluded in 1995 and the South Korean agreement in 2010. But they were only presented to parliament in 2015. The court declared them invalid in view of the inexplicable time delay.

The medium and long term impact

A judicial appeal is widely expected. But it’s unlikely that the government will succeed in overturning the essence of the judgement. And an appeals process will delay any legitimate future nuclear power procurement.

Any attempt to re-initiate a nuclear build would have to start from scratch. Based on the judgement it can safely be assumed that the regulator can only endorse nuclear expansion if it can demonstrate that it’s necessary and that it’s a better solution to any other energy option.

But given the prevalent suspicion around the nuclear expansion, the regulator will be hard pressed to show that the nuclear option is in the public interest.

It is therefore unlikely that any nuclear development will succeed in the foreseeable future.

Disclosure statement

Hartmut Winkler receives funding from the NRF. He is a member of Save South Africa and OUTA, but writes this piece in his personal capacity.

South Africa: Court Ruling On Zuma’s Nuclear Deal Is a Marker of South Africa’s Political Health

analysisBy David Fig, University of Cape Town

The South African government’s plan to bulldoze through a nuclear energy deal has been dealt what might be a fatal blow by the Cape Town High court which has declared the plan invalid. It found that the government had not followed due process in making the decision to pursue a nuclear power option, as well as in other critical areas.

The court’s decision has put paid to President Jacob Zuma’s hopes of clinching the nuclear build programme before leaving office in 2019 if he completes his term.

The case was brought to court by Earthlife Africa and the Southern Africa Faith-Communities’ Environmental Institute. The two NGOs were challenging the way in which the state determined the country’s nuclear power needs. The plan would have seen South Africa purchasing 9,600 megawatts of extra nuclear power.

The judge, Lee Bozalek, ruled the government’s action unconstitutional and found that five decisions it had taken were illegal. These included the government’s decision to go ahead with the nuclear build and the fact that it had handed over the procurement process to the state utility Eskom. The court also ruled that Eskom’s request for information from nuclear vendors, a step taken to prepare the procurement, which ended on 28 April 2017 was invalid.

If it still wants to pursue the nuclear deal the government will have to start all over again. To do so legally it would have to open up the process to detailed public scrutiny. The country’s electricity regulator would have to have a series of public hearings before endorsing what would be its highest ever spend on infrastructure. And any international agreements would have to be scrutinised by parliament.

All this will take time – something Zuma doesn’t have. And it’s unlikely that his successors will be as eager to champion a new deal as he has been. Meanwhile the facts about the deal will become public. This will undoubtedly demonstrate two of the biggest criticisms of the deal to be true: that the country can’t afford it, and that it’s energy needs have shrunk, making the vast investment redundant.

The court’s ruling has turned the nuclear procurement issue into one of the key markers of South Africa’s political health. It’s not yet clear whether the South African government will appeal the Western Cape High Court’s decision, or comply with the judgement. A third option is that Zuma simply ignores the courts and continues to pursue the deal.

Demand and affordability

South Africa currently has more than enough electricity to meet its needs. This wasn’t the case about five years ago when widespread outages hit the country. Since then new electricity generation capacity has been added, through the the rapid roll out of renewables, and the opening up of two new giant coal burning plants. Consumption, particularly by industry, has steadily declined due to faltering economic growth and higher electricity prices. Demand has dropped so much that Eskom plans to close five coal burning power stations.

The argument that the country needs another 9,600 megawatts was identified in documents that produced in 2011. These are now widely acknowledged as being badly out of date. Recent studies by the University of Cape Town’s Energy Research Centre have shown that the country doesn’t need to consider nuclear for another 20 years.

A number of studies have also shot holes in the government’s argument that the country can afford the proposed nuclear build. The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research has developed models showing that new nuclear is likely to be much more expensive than coal or renewables. The price ticket for nuclear – which some estimates put at more than R1 trillion – doesn’t take into account the costs of operation, fuel, insurance, emergency planning or the regulation or decontamination at the end of the life of the reactors.

It would also impose a financial burden on the country’s fiscus which it can ill afford particularly now that the economy has been rated at junk status.

Ulterior motives

So why is Zuma still pushing for the deal to go ahead? One source of pressure might be the Russians. South Africa’s former energy minister, Tina Joemat-Pettersson, had been instructed to signed a deal with the Russian utility, Rosatom to build the reactors. South Africa has also already signed nuclear power cooperation agreements with other countries like the US and South Korea, which the court has declared void.

A more likely reason for Zuma’s zeal is the involvement of the Gupta family with whom he has close ties. The family’s web of interests around the nuclear deal are complex.

What is known is that the Gupta family controls South Africa’s only dedicated uranium mine. The family has developed close relationships with key individuals at Eskom. In November last year the country’s then Public Protector pointed to overlapping directorships between Gupta-owned companies and Eskom.

The report also suggested that Brian Molefe, Eskom’s CEO, had a close relationship with the family. These revelations led to his resignation shortly after the report was published.

Another strand in the complex web is the fact that Zuma’s son Duduzane is a business partner of the Guptas while other relatives are directly employed by them.

Despite his determination, Zuma has become increasingly isolated in his quest for nuclear procurement. The African National Congress is clearly divided on the issue. This is evident from the fact that Zuma has resorted to reshuffling his cabinet to make way for more compliant ministers without reference to party officials as would be the norm.

The private sector has also come out against the idea while the list of civil society organisations opposed to nuclear expansion goes well beyond the environmental lobby and includes a broad spectrum of foundations, faith communities, human rights campaigners and defenders of the country’s constitution.

High stakes

The nuclear judgement in Cape Town indicates that South Africa’s legal system has not yet been “captured” by private interests.

The key question is whether Zuma and Eskom will accede to the verdict, or whether they challenge it while continuing to ignore the rule of law. Not only would this subvert the country’s constitution and its democratic form of government, it would also deny the constitutional right to popular participation in energy democracy.

The stakes are high – for the country as well as for the president. Will he continue to treat the country’s energy future with impunity? Or will this judgement symbolise the rollback of the democratic dispensation envisaged by the authors of the country’s constitution?

Disclosure statement

David Fig has had a long association with Earthlife Africa, and serves on the steering committee of the African Uranium Alliance.

Liberia: LTA, Partners End Int’l Internet Workshop

The Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA) and partners have ended a two-day international workshop on ICANN (the Internet Cooperation for Assigned Names and Numbers) Ecosystem and top level Domain Names management in Monrovia.

According to a press release, the mission of the ICANN is to, among others, coordinate the allocation and assignment of the three sets of unique identifiers for the internet, which include Domain Names, Internet Protocol addresses and autonomous system numbers as well as Protocol Port and Parameter Numbers.

The ICANN also seeks to coordinate the operation and evolution of the Domain Names (DNS) root name server system and coordinate policy development reasonably and appropriately related to the above mentioned technical functions.

The workshop, which was attended by dozens of representatives from the telecommunications and internet sectors of West African nations as well as the leaderships of the ICANN and the West Africa Telecommunications Regulatory Assembly, was aimed at building the capacity of participants about the ICANN and teaching them about the ICANN Ecosystem and many other issues that are relevant mainly to Liberia.

At the climax of the workshop Tuesday, several key issues in the telecommunications industry were put forward during various presentations by visiting experts of the sub-region.

Topics highlighted include the need to support the Domain Names (DNS) industry in Africa, ICANN’s contribution to internet security, and Domain Names dispute resolution.

Liberia

Gambia’s Barrow Meets Sirleaf

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Liberia: Liberian Leader Lauds Global Fund Support to Health Sector

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has lauded the Global Fund active support to the Liberian health sector through its malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS program.

She also praised the partnership between Liberia and the Global Fund that has brought about immense impact on the nation’s population.

President Sirleaf , however, called for increased support that would target rural health programs intended to enhance access healthcare.

The Liberian Chief Executive was speaking when she received in audience the Chief Executive Officer of Global Fund, Dr. Mark Dybul, at her office in Monrovia.

According to an Executive Mansion release, the Liberian leader thanked Dr. Dybul of Global Fund for his organization’s support to Liberia during a critical moment in our history.

Earlier, Dr. Dybul thanked President Sirleaf for the opportunity, her extraordinary support and strong voice for the work of Global Fund.

He described President Sirleaf as an advocate and champion of the aspirations of Global Fund and noted that the level collaboration in the health sector remains on course and praised Liberia for its robust Post-Ebola Resilient Healthcare Program.

Dybul acknowledged the need for support to the roads to health agenda of the government during discussions with the Ministry of Public Works officials aimed at addressing huge challenges that occasion the rainy season especially in rural parts of the country.

He expressed the need to make health services available to all sectors of the population in spite of the season.

Dr. Dybul assured that Global Fund was willing to partner with other actors, including the World Bank to critically respond to demanding infrastructure issues that will enable essential health, education and economic opportunities become accessible.

On Global Fund overall programme implementation towards its Liberia Program, Dr. Dybul noted that tremendous progress has and continues to be made in those critical facets of interventions.

Liberia

Gambia’s Barrow Meets Sirleaf

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South Africa: Bakkie Carrying 14 Men Overturns in Pretoria

A bakkie carrying 14 men overturned after the driver lost control on the Garsfontein Road Bridge, opposite Menlyn Mall in Pretoria on Friday morning.

Netcare 911 spokesperson Chris Botha said the men were on their way to work.

Botha said that four men sustained serious injuries, while 10 others escaped with minor injuries.

“The seriously injured men were stabilised at the scene and then transported to a nearby hospital, under the constant care of a Netcare 911 advanced life support paramedic,” Botha said.

Source: News24

South Africa

Dam Levels Decline in Most Provinces

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Liberia: ‘Liberia Taking Precaution After Mystery Deaths in Sinoe’ – WHO

By Cewhy Kwanue

The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Wednesday that Liberian health authorities are taking rapid precautionary measures after 10 people died of a mystery illness, 10 months after the end of a catastrophic two-year Ebola virus outbreak.

Liberian authorities said initial scientific investigations have ruled out Ebola as the cause of the deaths. Residents say the people died of suspected ‘food poisoning’ from food eaten at the funeral repast of a pastor (not named). The pastor’s death was attributed to high blood pressure.

The Liberian National Police is also investigating the causes of the deaths.

“The corpse of the person who died today (yesterday) reportedly decayed within a short time,” a female resident told the Daily Observer via mobile phone last night.

Accounts from Greenville have meanwhile described the situation as being tense and confusing. As a result, health workers are reportedly wearing personal protection equipments (PPEs) similar to what healthcare givers used during the deadly Ebola outbreak in the country.

One account said some of the victims were literally dropping dead and that officers of the LNP are using megaphones to warn residents to report all sick cases to the hospital and not to churches or shrines.

“Yesterday, WHO received a report from Liberia health authorities about a cluster of unexplained illness and deaths in Sinoe County, southern Liberia,” WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said in an email.

“According to the report, since Monday, 14 people have fallen sick. Eight people have died and six are seriously ill and still in the hospital.”

He gave no indication of what might have caused the deaths, but said specimens from seven bodies had been sent to the national laboratory for testing and that results were expected Wednesday or yesterday, Thursday.

Samples were also being taken from water sources to test for chemicals and bacteria, he said.

“Health authorities are taking immediate precautionary measures such as isolating suspected cases, tracing contacts and engaging with the community and their leaders,” Jasarevic added.

The Chief Medical Officer of Liberia, Dr. Francis Nah Kateh, told a news conference in Monrovia on Wednesday that rapid response teams have been activated at district and county levels.

Kateh, however, did not respond to this newspaper’s phone call last night; neither did he reply to a text message the Daily Observer sent to him.

Meanwhile, it has been reported that “initial tests conducted by the Liberian Institute of Biomedical Research in Charlesville, Margibi County, has ruled out Ebola virus disease as the cause of the deaths.”

In June last year, the WHO declared Liberia free of active Ebola virus transmission, the last of three West African countries at the epicenter of the world’s worst outbreak of the disease.

The epidemic killed more than 11,300 people and infected some 28,600 from 2013, as it swept through Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, according to WHO data. (Reuters).

Liberia

Gambia’s Barrow Meets Sirleaf

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Liberia: High Tariffs Affecting Movement of Goods At Liberia-Guinea Border

By Ishmael F. Menkor

Slow movement of goods and services is being reported at one of Liberia’s leading revenue-generating ports of entry, the border with Guinea at Ganta, Nimba County.

The movement of goods and services has reportedly been very slow since the beginning of the year, which a lot of business travelers say is a result of the high tariff imposed by the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA).

Some of the businesspeople interviewed told the Daily Observer that the sharp increase in tariff by the government of Liberia is hampering trade.

“Before we were paying 15% on rubber dishes, but the tariff has gone up to 20% flat; and it is very hard to make profit from it,” said a trader identified only as Serena.

“The tariff on soap used to be determined by the quantity in kilograms, but now it is strictly 20% of what you purchase,” said another woman.

The border area has since been very quiet, according to traders, with some customs officers passing the time playing games on their computers and others seen doing extracurricular activities to keep busy.

Mondays and Thursdays are reportedly the busiest days at the border, when traders travel to the nearby Guinean towns of N’zérékoré and Djéké. But according to the businesspeople this paper spoke to, that is no longer the case.

The tariff on agricultural products, including cattle, livestock, groundnuts and pepper, among others, has also increased, according to a customs agent who did not want to be identified.

He said tariff on vehicles has been increased to 10% from 17%, and said people are not crossing with goods since the increase.

He named other tariffs to include the Custom Usual Fees (CUF), 1.5%; Government Services Tax (GST), 10%; and 0.5% ECOWAS tax on ECOWAS goods.

Liberia

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Dubai Islamic Bank Gets Nod to Operate in Kenya

By Brian Ngugi, Business Daily

The Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) has licensed the Dubai Islamic Bank – owned by the United Arab Emirates’ largest Shariah lender Dubai Islamic Bank – to carry out operations in the country.

CBK said in a statement that DIB intends to exclusively offer Shariah compliant banking services in Kenya.

“It becomes the third fully Shariah compliant bank to be licensed in Kenya, after Gulf African Bank Limited in 2007 and First Community Bank Limited in 2008,” said CBK Friday.

The lender has a presence in Bosnia, Indonesia, Pakistan, Sudan, Turkey and the UAE.

End of licensing freeze

DIB’s entry into the market marks the end of a moratorium imposed by the CBK on licensing of new banks.

“CBK welcomes the entry of international brands such as DIB into the Kenyan banking sector. DIBs entry will expand the offerings in the market, particularly in the nascent Shariah-compliant banking niche,” said the regulator.

Central bank said its entry signifies long-standing economic ties between Kenya and the UAE.

As at September last year, the Emirati bank had an asset base of $47.6 billion and capital of $7.4 billion.

Kenya

Millions Needed to Battle Armyworms

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Independent Candidates for August Polls Hit 1,500

By Simon Ndonga

Nairobi — The number of candidates who are seeking to contest for various seats independently is on the rise.

Registrar of Political Parties Lucy Ndung’u told Capital FM News the number has hit 1,500 so far.

The number has increased as political parties wind up their primaries.

Most have cited the spate of shambolic or unfair nominations across the country as the reason for the last minute decision to quit.

The disgruntled candidates rushed to the Registrar of Political Parties to effect the changes even as the nomination deadline was extended to Sunday.

To be cleared to run as an independent candidate, the aspirant is required to submit an application letter of request for clearance, a copy of their ID and a fee of Sh500.

Kenya

Millions Needed to Battle Armyworms

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Ethiopia to Open First Embassy in Rwanda

Photo: Timothy Kisambira/The New Times

Both Rwandan and Ethiopian flags sway at Kigali International Airport.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn who is on a three-day state visit to Rwanda will open his country’s first embassy in Rwanda.

The news was announced by Rwanda’s Foreign Affairs Minister Louise Mushikiwabo at a State Banquet hosted by President Paul Kagame and First Lady Jeannette Kagame in honour of Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn and First Lady Roman Tesfaye who arrived in the country yesterday.

Ethiopia has been carrying out its diplomatic relations with Rwanda through its embassy in Uganda. Rwanda opened its first embassy in Ethiopia in 1978.

Prior to the embassy opening slated for this evening, Premier Hailemariam and his delegation will hold talks with their host President Kagame on how to further strengthen and deepen relations between the two countries.

The two leaders are expected to discuss regional cooperation, trade and investment ties, and how the two nations can learn from each other’s experience in peace and security. Delegations from both countries will ink agreements in new areas of partnerships.

On the first day of his visit, the Ethiopian Prime Minister visited Ntebe Integrated Model Village in Rwamagana District, Eastern Province where he commended Rwanda’s move to promote modern settlements in rural areas to improve citizens’ welfare focusing on poor families.

Concluded on Tuesday, 25 April 2017, a Joint Permanent Commission involving experts from Rwanda and Ethiopia identified new areas of cooperation. These include tourism and education.

Rwanda

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