The Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute (SAFCEI) told South African President Jacob Zuma and the Minister of Energy on Tuesday that it was worried about the country’s planned nuclear deal triggering a surge in debt.

The faith-based NGO said it had delivered a letter to the office of the South African Presidency and Minister of Energy. SAFCEI Executive Director Francesca de Gasparis said this added burden to the country’s debt level would be due to potential investor disputes around South Africa’s intergovernmental agreements (IGAs) for nuclear power.

South Africa has two strategic partnership agreements relating to nuclear energy: one with the Russian Federation and another with the People’s Republic of China.

According to SAFCEI, South Africa is spending R162 billion in 2017/18 on servicing its national debt, more than it spends on tertiary education or land reform and almost equal to what it spends on social grants and health, while the country’s debt-to-GDP ratio now stands at 50.7% of the GDP, up from 27.8% in 2008, and rising steadily.

“We need to be sure that government fully understands the implications and costs of the nuclear deal, as well as the risk of potential investor disputes...,” said de Gasparis. 

“The power plants alone are estimated to cost over R1-trillion and already millions have been spent on the programme. Yet, South Africa still has nothing concrete to show for it,” she said. “SAFCEI is asking, on behalf of South African citizens, for an opportunity to make input into the government’s decision on how these agreements are to be tabled in Parliament."

- African News Agency (ANA)