By Hassan Isilow
JOHANNESBURG (AA) – South Africa’s Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene claimed on Wednesday that he was fired by former President Jacob Zuma in 2015, because he refused to agree to a nuclear deal with Russia.
He said Zuma criticized him during a BRICS meeting in Russia for not finalizing the financial aspects of the proposed nuclear deal with Moscow.
“I told President Zuma I could not sign the letter without having first interrogated the financial and fiscal policy implications and proposed model of funding,” he told a commission of inquiry probing corruption involving the wealthy Indian Gupta family, Zuma and other government officials.
The program to build nine nuclear plants across South Africa would have cost the country more than 1 trillion rands ($69 billion).
The past administration said it opted for building new nuclear plants in a bid to diversify the country’s energy resources because the country depends on coal-powered stations which often face coal shortages.
South Africa currently has two nuclear reactors at the power station situated at Koeberg near Cape Town. The Koeberg nuclear power station is owned and operated by South Africa’s only national electricity supplier Eskom.
It produces 1,800 megawatts and accounts for about 5 percent of the country’s total electricity production.
Nene who was re-appointed finance minister in May after Zuma resigned in April believes he was earlier removed from his position because he did not approve projects that would benefit the Gupta family who were Zuma’s close friends.
The Guptas are alleged to have influenced Zuma to fire ministers and give them lucrative government contracts. Both Zuma and the Guptas deny the accusations.