A leading oil and gas lawyer has warned South Africa against pursuing nuclear energy, saying any proposed deal might come with political pressure. File picture: Mary Jane Mphahlele
Cape Town - A leading oil and gas lawyer and African entrepreneur has warned South Africa against pursuing nuclear energy, saying any proposed deal might come with political pressure which could lead to “capture”.

NJ Ayuk, who is widely recognised as one of the top influential businessman in the sector globally, said there was no reason for South Africa to consider nuclear energy and instead it should invest in clean renewable energy to create jobs and grow its economy.

Ayuk said the consideration for nuclear could lead to the country succumbing to external pressures.

“We need to stop having short-term fixes to our challenges. If we continue to look to other powers for solutions, we will have to succumb to what they want. Is that what South Africa wants?” he asked.

With South Africa’s bid for a non-permanent seat on the UN’s Security Council this year, Ayuk warned if the country were to consider nuclear energy and partner with another country, this would diminish its position on the influential body.

Speculation about South Africa seeking partnership with Russia has come to the fore over the past year, with the government denying that a deal had been made.

“Do you want a member of the Security Council that’s dependent on another country for its energy security and needs? Africa needs a representative that will articulate its views and not one that will be perceived to be captured by another strong power,” he said.

For decades South Africa relied on coal for electricity and synthetic fuel production but needs to look at other energy sources to meet its climate change commitments.

Recent studies have also shown a decline in global demand for coal.

“Renewable energy must be the core part of the energy mix as it has the potential to alleviate poverty. We need to put in the right investment in it. It will create jobs and allow small businesses to participate in the sector,” he said.

He said the country and other African countries endowed with mineral resources should start looking at establishing an enabling environment for investments and growth in the sector.

Ayuk said the political change in South Africa gave hope that there would be a re-focus on the energy sector and that “homegrown” solutions for energy problems would be found.

“We have to be futuristic. It doesn’t help any country to have big projects and the skills cannot be found within it because jobs are not created or if they are they are low skilled jobs”, Ajuk said.

He also advocated better management of mineral resources throughout the continent and better frameworks to “empower communities”.

“Africa needs to start thinking of sharing skills and expertise to create intra-trade. We have the technology in most of the countries, we need to enhance what we already have.”

Weekend Argus