Pretoria - President Jacob Zuma has granted Energy Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson authority to sign a nuclear agreement with France, the presidency said on Friday.
“President Jacob Zuma has, in terms of section 231 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, granted authority to... Joemat-Pettersson, to sign an agreement on co-operation in the development of peaceful uses of nuclear energy, between the government of the Republic of South Africa and the government of the French Republic,” spokesman Mac Maharaj said in a statement.
The details of the signing of the agreement would be discussed by the department and its counterpart in France.
Maharaj also confirmed that Zuma granted Joemat-Pettersson authority to sign an earlier nuclear agreement between South Africa and Russia.
“On the 20th of September, the president granted permission to the minister... to sign the agreement between the South African government and the government of the Russian Federation on the strategic partnership and co-operation in the fields of nuclear power and industry.”
On Thursday, the Democratic Alliance said Joemat-Pettersson should give details about what authority was acquired in concluding the nuclear agreement with Russia.
“The DA is extremely concerned over reports that 1/8she 3/8 signed the latest agreement with Russia in secret and without the involvement of other departmental or diplomatic staff in attendance,” DA MP Lance Greyling said in a statement.
On September 22, the department and Russia's atomic energy agency Rosatom issued separate but identical statements that South Africa and Russia had struck a “deal” for the construction of up to eight nuclear power plants.
On September 26, the Mail & Guardian reported that Zuma took control of a R1 trillion nuclear deal with Russia for that country to supply nuclear plants to South Africa.
Zuma reportedly negotiated directly with Russian president Vladimir Putin and instructed Joemat-Pettersson to sign the deal.
Earlier this month, government said there had been no agreement entered into with Russia for the construction of nuclear power plants.
Last week, energy department acting director general Wolsey Barnard denied the department's statement on the power plants had been a mistake. There had, however, been a “misunderstanding” of the statement.
He said South Africa was still looking at different options to facilitate nuclear power in the country.
On Wednesday, Beeld newspaper reported that Joemat-Pettersson was alone when she signed the “mysterious” agreement with Russia.
According to the report, the rest of the South African delegation attending the general conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna were told to go and wait somewhere else because the meeting with Russia was “private”.
Maharaj said on October 3 that Zuma would not act alone when negotiating nuclear power agreements.
“Media reports that President Jacob Zuma has negotiated or will negotiate and conclude nuclear power agreements alone are incorrect,” Maharaj said.
“The president works with Cabinet on the matter.”