/ 14 April 2016

Letters to the editor: April 15 to 21 2016

'Clever blacks': People backed Jacob Zuma even in the face of rape and corruption charges.
'Clever blacks': People backed Jacob Zuma even in the face of rape and corruption charges.

We ignored the evidence

Let the truth be told: during the recalling of former president Thabo Mbeki, whom many of us adored, many of us, including the black middle class “clever blacks”, stood behind Jacob Zuma, now our immoral president.

Even though we knew about the corruption and rape charges we stood behind him and defended him.

We sang uMshini Wami and rallied behind him thinking that finally we’d found a true general, an African man who will govern us according to the African norms and standards and who will stand up to white capital, and fight for the economic emancipation of his people. But no, we were wrong.

We believed in the man, thinking that for once we’ll be led by someone firmly on the ground, who listens to ordinary South Africans, and has his heart rooted in the development of South Africa.

But we were wrong, even though the signs were there. Amnesia took its course and we decided to ignore them, rallying behind our president, who portrayed such energetic charisma.

Here we are today, punching ourselves for being accomplices to the crime, and for waiting this long to start intensifying the calls for Zuma’s resignation after so much damage has been done.

Zuma is a perfect example of why the current ANC, and many South Africans generally, need to undergo an intense psychiatric evaluation.

The longer it’s going to take to remove Zuma from the highest office on the land, the more damage the country will face – including the downfall of the ANC. – Modibe Modiba, Pretoria

Eskom, please rethink this nuke site

This is an appeal to South Africa’s decision-makers and Eskom’s chief executive Brian Molefe. An increase in power supply is urgent. But it makes no sense in terms of delivery speed and cost efficiency that, of the two sites being considered for the proposed nuclear power station, the Thyspunt site, 125km from the Nelson Mandela metro, is preferred over Duynefontein at Koeberg.

Though there may be a need for power in the Eastern Cape in the future, a nuclear station at Koeberg is the obviously faster solution and lower-cost option – which should be the national priorities.

The Koeberg site is ready to go: it has the requisite space, with the necessary infrastructure in place, which includes built roads and transmission lines, a nearby harbour for the transport of the ultra-heavy reactors, and a ready supply of skilled and semi-skilled labour.

Yet, somehow, Eskom seems hellbent on developing “the biggest industrial site in the southern hemisphere” at Thyspunt, an isolated and undeveloped area. (It is worth noting that today’s reactors need only a 3km safety exclusion zone compared with the reactors of the 1980s, which required a 16km safety radius.)

Before nuclear development can start at Thyspunt, three new roads have to be built (as well as environmental impact assessments done), and new transmission lines plus back-up lines must be built, to link Thyspunt to the national grid at the metro more than 125km away.

Also, six-million cubic metres of dune sand must first be removed from the site to reach bedrock for the nuclear station’s foundations. (An engineer calculated that this is equivalent to loaded trucks stretching bumper-to-bumper from Cape Town to Cairo).

Half of this amount, about three-million cubic metres of sand, is destined to be thrown into the sea where it is highly likely to affect the prime calamari breeding grounds, a resource for the chokka industry centred on the Eastern Cape and responsible for export revenue and significant employment.

Moreover, it appears that certain bridges on the N2 from the Nelson Mandela metro are not strong enough to bear the weight of the reactors, so a mini-harbour would have to be built at Thyspunt for the reactors’ transport by sea, on barges.

The proposed sites of Thyspunt and Duynefontein at Koeberg were reduced from an earlier choice of five sites for nuclear power stations. Eskom’s selection of these five sites was based on their outdated plans from the 1980s under the apartheid regime. Their original scheme had considered a sixth site, east of the metro, but it was discounted at the time as it was within 100km of a “foreign” state – the former Bantustan of Ciskei.

In the intervening 30 years, did Eskom not reassess the changed conditions and the new requirements for nuclear power? No, it went ahead with the outdated scheme. This is astonishing, given that Eskom’s own 2014 analysis of future power demands shows that the main demand will be the region between the Nelson Mandela metro and Buffalo City. But Eskom seems to be steadfast in its preference for Thyspunt: it has bought vast tracts of land around this site in the last few years and has done so prior to the completion of the environmental impact assessment.

It is interesting that the current environmental impact assessment report (the revised second draft) interprets the impacts of the nuclear development as being equivalent on both the Koeberg and Thyspunt sites. Yet the specialist reports are clear that at Thyspunt, the wetlands, the natural landscape and cultural heritage are unique and highly sensitive.

Impacts aside, the decision makers should be guided by the nation’s urgent need for power as soon as possible, and at the more cost-efficient site, which is at Duynefontein at Koeberg. – Concerned, Cape St Francis