Pali Lehohla
Pali Lehohla

OPINION: Emmanuel Montwedi rules the Global Youth Nuclear Roost

By Pali Lehohla Time of article published Mar 15, 2020

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JOHANNESBURG - Emmanuel  Montwedi rules the Global Youth Nuclear Roost. 

Montwedi was announced as the executive secretary of the International Youth Nuclear Congress in Sydney just as the coronavirus was taking hold of the world. 

He enters a field nuclear energy as a form of energy is, in some quarters, viewed as the coming of an end, Others see it as a major solution to the problems of the future.
Montwedi takes on a special task that challenges Niels Bhor and Albert Einstein, the duo  responsible for opening up the scientific basis for fission in the development of an atomic bomb.

Bohr’s letter to the UN in 1950 built on his earlier interactions with heads of states and other scientists on the devastating specter of a nuclear arms race.

This led to the UN coming with a resolution on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. In the mix of arguments was the reaction of Winston Churchill whose idea of the atomic bomb remained very rudimentary – that it was just a bigger bomb.

Bohr had advanced a complexity theory that illustrated that an atomic bomb and the prospects for nuclear will change political systems and international relations. The atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the devastating effects that followed compelled him to make a special plea  for nuclear energy to be deployed for peace.

Bohr proposed openness as the main weapon to deployment of science in development. Montwedi, a senior nuclear engineer, and his youthful compatriots are pursuing and endorsing Bohr’s quest for peaceful deployment of nuclear.

Yet Montwedi comes in at a very challenging time where public arguments in South  Africa are polarised.

Nuclear is seen as unsafe and not clean. Hiroshima and Nagasaki down to Fukushima are listed as proof by protagonists. Attempts to have nuclear at the forefront of South 

Africa’s energy needs elevated the discourse to seeing is almost as inherently corrupt and unaffordable.

Renewables are paraded as the best solution.

Yet Eskom has not dressed us in glory either because of corruption, system’s failures and ever soaring costs.

The literal smoke out of the plant and the historical mirrors of falsehoods out of mouths of executives have taken all oxygen out of an ailing economy whose public lungs are now facing the specter of the deadly coronavirus.

Does Montwedi have a chance? Who will hold his hand?

South Africa is ever so good for scoring own goals and creating space for tragedies which when eventuate are well beyond the capacity of South Africa to indulge and solve.

We are reminded of what Madiba wrote that “significant progress is always possible  if we ourselves plan every detail and allow intervention of fate only on our own  terms.”

I wish Montwedi well and he should heed Madiba’s wise counsel. 

Dr Pali Lehohla is the former Statistician-General of South Africa and former Head of  Statistics South Africa.


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