The ongoing management changes at the Nuclear Energy Corporation of South Africa (Necsa) took another turn yesterday when chairperson Rob Adam announced his resignation after barely six months in the job.
A Necsa spokesperson confirmed Adams’ resignation, which had allegedly resulted from him not having enough time to devote to the country’s only state-owned nuclear products company, given his other role as managing director of the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory.
Necsa conducts research and development in nuclear energy, radiation sciences and technology. It is responsible for uranium enrichment and produces radio isotope medicines.
The National Education Health and Allied Workers’ Union last month held a picket to oppose 400 job cuts at Necsa and called for the resignation of the recently appointed Necsa board.
Adam had been appointed after former Minister of Energy Jeff Radebe suspended the former chairperson, Dr Kelvin Kemm, along with the entire board. At the time, Radebe cited acts of defiance, ineptitude and a failure to address serious setbacks with the production of medical radioisotopes, used in cancer treatment.
Dr Kemm, together with former Necsa chief executive Phumzile Tshelane, is challenging Radebe’s decision in court, Kemm said yesterday.
He said Necsa had been one of the few profitable state-owned organisations in 2017, but Radebe had ignored all Necsa’s plans to grow its nuclear radio isotope business, which it was selling to about 60 countries at the time.
Kemm said the minister had allegedly wanted to sell the business to a US company, while Necsa had been involved in developing a co-operation partnership agreement with the nuclear medicine division of Russian group Rosatom for two years.
Kemm said Radebe had alleged that one of the reasons for his and the board’s suspension was that they had allegedly worked with the Russian company, without Radebe’s approval.
Necsa’s facilities were also shut down for some months last year due to safety and operational problems.
Necsa spokesperson Ntombikhona Mthombeni said yesterday that all its operations at Necsa’s facility in Pelindaba were in production.
Necsa also helped to establish Ketlaphela Pharmaceutical, a state-owned pharmaceutical company, to supply South African-manufactured active pharmaceutical ingredients for communicable diseases such as HIV/Aids, tuberculosis and malaria, and later non-communicable diseases, including oncology, initially to the public health sector.
South Africa is the largest antiretroviral (ARV) market globally, and the government’s ARV tender is among the biggest tenders in the county.
According to its website, Ketlaphela claimed to be on track to manufacture ARVs from 2021/22.