Jacob Zuma 'nuclear plan could have averted blackouts'

Members of South Africa's Congress of the People party demonstrate outside Eskom Offices at Megawatt Park against the re-instatement of Brian Molefe as Eskom CEO, May 15, 2017. PHOTO | GULSHAN KHAN | AFP

Former South African President Jacob Zuma has waded into the national debate of how to deal with the crippling interruption of electricity in the country.

State-owned power utility company Eskom has been implementing daily power cuts designed to prevent a total collapse of the overstretched electricity grid.

Mr Zuma told local Business Day news site that a controversial nuclear deal with Russia, that he fronted when he was in office, could have averted the current crisis.

“The fact of the matter is nuclear could solve our problems, once and for all. Now we are in deep, we are therefore increasing the debt of the country with no hope to bring it down. That’s a problem," Mr Zuma said.

The plan to build eight nuclear plants, with the support of Russia and other countries at an estimated cost of around 1tn rand ($76 billion; £59 billion) was annulled by a court in 2017 following a legal challenge by environmental groups.

There were also allegations that the cost of the project had been inflated. The country currently has one nuclear plant.

Environmental groups say South Africa should rely more on renewable energy to meet its electricity needs.