Picture: Mike Hutchings/Reuters

Johannesburg - The Federation of Unions of South Africa (Fedusa) on Tuesday, said that South Africa cannot afford nuclear electricity, adding that the country should rather focus on achieving economic and political stability.

Standards and Poor ratings agency last week downgraded the country's local-currency debt score to junk status or sub-investment grade. 

Moody's Investor Services also placed the country on review for downgrade in February 2018, after the finance minister tabled the National Budget in Parliament. 

According to the country's Integrated Resource Plan, South Africa is planning to build eight nuclear reactors that would generate 9.6GW of power at a R1 trillion price tag.

Fedusa general secretary, Dennis George, said that global diversions away from nuclear to renewable energy sources have been proven to be a lot cheaper and better for the environment, but lack of commitment by government in aborting the nuclear programme will continue to motivate downgrade decisions by ratings agencies.

George said that fragile economic growth has seriously affected public finances, which will negatively impact on public sector wage negotiations in the Public Service Co-ordinating Bargaining Council representing public servants. 

"The [President Jacob] Zuma faction has destabilised key policymaking institutions such as the South African Reserve Bank and the National Treasury," George said in a statement. 

"The entire economic and political situation could have been avoided if it was not for the weak political leadership of President Zuma. The country should have pursued economic stability, discipline and prudent fiscal policy within the context SOCs regulatory reform as well as sound corporate governance leadership."

George said that Fedusa would attend the Sovereign Downgrade Task Team meeting on Tuesday at National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac).

The meeting is set to address the drivers on which Standard and Poor's based their decision to downgrade the country, to discuss options to mitigate against the negative impacts of the downgrade particularly on the poor, working class and vulnerable sectors of society. 

George said the weak economic growth will leave millions of teachers; health workers, police officers and citizens further trapped in spiralling debt and worsened levels of poverty and unemployment, and that fuel prices are expected to show big increases in December would weaken the exchange rate.