Parliament’s energy portfolio committee confirmed on Friday (November 18, 2016) that the department of energy’s briefing on the procurement of nuclear power stations will be open.
This followed a letter sent by the amaBhungane Centre for Investigative Journalism attorneys to the committee, saying that amaBhungane and a civil society coalition intended to proceed with an urgent interdict.
Read amaBhungane’s first lawyers letter
Earlier in the week, committee chair Fikile Majola was quoted in Business Day as saying the meeting would be held in camera.
AmaBhungane instructed its attorneys, Webber Wentzel, to demand the committee open the briefing to the media and public, failing which we would bring an urgent High Court application.
AmaBhungane was to be joined by a coalition of civil society organisations including the Right2Know Campaign, the Open Democracy Advice Centre, Council for the Avancement of the South African Constitution and the Dullah Omar Institute.
When Majola did not reply, amaBhungane’s attorneys sent him a second letter on Friday saying that we would proceed with the application.
Read amaBhungane’s second lawyers letter
Majola then wrote back, denying he had made the decision. “I need to inform you that I can never make such a decision. I clearly informed members that the house chairperson … advised that it is the committee that must make such a decision.
As a matter of fact, the committee never considered or deliberated on whether or not the nuclear meeting on Tuesday, 29 November 2016 should be a closed session.
He said the briefing “will thus be open to the public”.
AmaBhungane regards this as a victory for transparency and accountability.
The nuclear power stations, if they are built, may cost R1-trillion and be South Africa’s biggest procurement yet. The process has been shrouded in secrecy despite government promises of a fair and transparent process.
AmaBhungane has reported extensively on the hugely controversial project, which critics fear could bankrupt the country.
AmaBhungane has also used the Promotion of Access to Information Act to try to gain access to records relating to the procurement, including affordability studies.
These applications were dismissed by the department and minister of energy.