Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene says he refused to sign the guarantee for the Nuclear Build Programme because it would have had lasting financial implications for the country for decades.
Nene is giving testimony at the State Capture Commission of inquiry in Parktown Johannesburg. He says it did not seem wise to approve such a commitment in the absence of a proposed financial model and feasibility study.
The Nuclear Build Programme was estimated to cost over a trillion rand. He says he was criticized by former President Jacob Zuma and other colleagues for refusing to approve the programme.
Nene says he believes Zuma was upset with him for not signing a letter in 2015 that would have committed South Africa to a nuclear deal with Russia. He says the first phase of the deal would have come to around R 250 billion.
He says his refusal to sign the nuclear deal was not out of arrogance or insubordination, but to ensure that there was secure, transparent management of the country’s finance.
“He was obviously very upset and he felt it was unacceptable that cabinet had given instructions and I had not done what I was supposed to do even though I had given my reason for being unable to do that. “
Asked about the degree of Zuma’s dissatisfaction, or unhappiness, Nene responded, “I think it was more than unhappiness because it was confirmed to me by the conversation that he had, I don’t know perhaps it was a degree of unhappiness.
Nene says he thinks Zuma was angry. Meanwhile, President Cyril Ramaphosa has reiterated that he will appear before the Inquiry into State Capture if requested to do so.
This came out in a written parliamentary reply to a question from Congress of the People leader, Mosiuoa Lekota.
In his reply, Ramaphosa says he will gladly oblige if asked to appear before the commission. He added that all those with information, including members of the cabinet and senior government employees, are encouraged to approach the commission.