Energy Minister David Mahlobo Picture: Bongani Mbatha/ANA

Johannesburg - Russian state energy firm Rosatom is pushing ahead with its nuclear bid despite two environmental groups taking Energy Minister David Mahlobo to court to block the nuclear build programme.

Head of Rosatom in sub-Saharan Africa Viktor Polikarpov said on Saturday it was still in the race to build nuclear in South Africa irrespective of what was happening.

Polikarpov, who was in Accra, Ghana, said it was not involved in politics and were businesspeople.

Earthlife Africa and the Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute (Safcei) lodged an urgent high court application this week to block Mahlobo from fast-tracking the nuclear build programme.

This followed reports that Mahlobo was planning to finalise processes soon.

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Polikarpov said it will still pursue the nuclear build programme in South Africa. He said Rosatom was busy all over Africa.

“As for South Africa if the government launches another tender we will participate. This is business for us which should not be mixed with politics,” said Polikarpov.

Earthlife Africa and Safcei said they went to the high court to block Mahlobo from pushing through the nuclear deal because he was fast-tracking the process.

Mahlobo will be in Parliament on Tuesday where he will brief the portfolio committee on energy on matters of energy in the country.

Makoma Lekalaka of Earthlife Africa Johannesburg said they wanted to put a stop to the nuclear programme.

“We are part of an international movement against dirty nuclear energy, where we have seen governments enter into nuclear deals that are not in the interests of their people. That must not happen in South Africa,” said Lekalaka.

President Jacob Zuma has insisted recently in Parliament that nuclear would be procured on a scale and pace that South Africa can afford.

He denied there was contradiction between Mahlobo and Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba’s views on nuclear, with the latter saying nuclear was unaffordable.

Gigaba said the country would not be in a position to afford nuclear energy in the next five years.

Mahlobo also told the National Council of Provinces a few weeks ago that nuclear remained the policy of government.

Earthlife Africa and Safcei said they want Mahlobo and Eskom to provide documents to determine if they have begun with the nuclear procurement process.

The two organisations said should evidence emerge that the process has begun that would be in contempt of an earlier court judgment in April where the Western Cape High Court blocked the process.

It urged the government to follow the required processes including going to Parliament and scrapping all previous inter-governmental agreements with Russia, the US, China and France.

Lid McDaid of Safcei said they wanted to block the process because the state was now captured.

He said South Africa cannot afford the reported R1 trillion nuclear deal as the money would go to the people who are milking the state, and not the poor.

Political Bureau