Allister Sparks made some interesting observations in BusinessDay last week:
Last week, all four of SA’s big banks closed Oakbay’s accounts, KPMG announced it would no longer audit the company’s books, and the family’s stock exchange sponsor abandoned them.
This was followed by Atul and Varun Gupta resigning their directorships of Oakbay, and Duduzane Zuma, the president’s son, from his nonexecutive chairmanship of Shiva Uranium, an Oakbay subsidiary.
There is something fishy going on here. The critical thing is that Oakbay, and particularly Shiva, a uranium mine in the North West, is central to Zuma’s eagerness to do a deal with Russia to build and operate a series of nuclear plants capable of providing Eskom with 9,600MW of electricity.
It is a deal that would make both the Guptas and the Zuma family a fortune, since Duduzane Zuma owns a sizeable slice of Shiva’s shares.
But it is a deal two finance ministers, Pravin Gordhan and Nhlanhla Nene, have blocked because they deemed it unaffordable.
Sparks goes on to allege that it was Nene’s resistance to the nuclear deal prompted his sacking, directly contributing to South Africa’s current political crisis.
It is interesting to note that a few hours before firing Nene on that critical night, Zuma had persuaded the Cabinet to approve the 9,600MW deal — in itself an illustration of how he has packed his administration with toadies. He must have been furious when Nene refused to okay it, thus obstructing his grand plan.
I have always thought that investing in nuclear power was the worst idea ever for South Africa’s power sector. There is not a single nuclear power plant in the world that has ever been cost effective. Adjusted for government incentives, research and development and waste disposal, nuclear is way more expensive than large-scale solar or wind power, not to speak of hydro, all of which have substantial potential in South Africa and the wider region.