Thousands of people from civil society groups across Gauteng today took part in a march to protest against South Africa's nuclear expansion plans. The activists marched from Pieter Roos Park to Beyers Naude Square, where they handed over a memorandum to the Presidency. Smaller protests and placard demonstrations happened simultaneously in Durban, Cape Town and Bantamsklip.
Members of Earthlife Africa, Greenpeace Africa, Justice and Peace, and Ceasefire formed the alliance with the purpose to raise concerns about the cost of the new build project, the safety of nuclear power and the lack of transparency and accountability in the nuclear sector.
According to Earthlife Africa's Makoma Lekalakala "The country's new nuclear build is estimated to be at least R1 trillion in public funds. The cost for the nuclear infrastructure build will ultimately be passed down to South Africans which means we are heading for devastating poverty amongst millions of already impoverished South Africans"
Since Fukushima, several countries around the world have moved away from nuclear energy. While the world sees nuclear as dangerous and unsafe, the South African government approved a nuclear expansion plan barely a month after the Fukushima disaster and has remained adamant that this is the best option for the country.
"Government has refused to listen to the people. They can ignore a few but they cannot ignore thousands. It is irresponsible for the South African government to want to expose their people to the threats of nuclear contamination as we recently witnessed in Fukushima" said Greenpeace Africa's climate and energy campaigner Ferrial Adam.
There has been little public information on the procurement and tender processes. The Department of Energy is set to make the largest state expenditure in South Africa's history. At the moment, the Department's procurement of energy, especially with the procurement of renewable energy in the REBID process, has been opaque at best.
"Civil Society will be watching the nuclear energy procurement process very closely. The nuclear industry has often functioned under a veil of secrecy. We have the right to know and we will demand that the procurement processes are open and transparent. The era of secret deals like the arms deal must come to an end" added Adam.
"Ultimately we want the government to heed our call for just energy solutions. Nuclear energy is not the answer," concluded Lekalakala.