Two big players in the South African publications media have launched a campaign against South African President Jacob Zuma in the wake of his negotiations with Russian President Vladimir Putin for South Africa to acquire an as yet unannounced number of nuclear power power plants from Russia.
The deal with Russia has not yet been finalized. Zuma has met Putin three times in the past year, with negotiations advancing during Zuma's recent post-BRICS Summit to Moscow. South Africa, the only African country with a functioning—albeit aged—nuclear power plant, is confronted with severe ongoing electrical power shortages, which is holding back its economic development.
The South African Mail & Guardian on Sept. 26 reported that Zuma personally took control of negotiations with Russia for a R1 trillion rand ($89 billion) nuclear deal for the construction of as many as eight nuclear plants in South Africa. The scandal, in the Mail & Guardian's eyes is that Zuma negotiated directly with Putin and then ordered the South African energy minister to sign the deal, apparently instead of letting the deal go through "channels."
Zizi Kodwa, national spokesman of the African National Congress (ANC), Zuma's party, said in response that any problems in the process should not be used as a pretext to torpedo the deal for South Africa, "a country with a problem of energy."
Zizi Kodwa said Zuma is only "implementing what he announced in the state of the nation manifesto." He noted that South Africa had a problem of electrical power shortage, and charged that "People are not interested in building a future in the country." On Sept. 27, the energy department issued a statement denying that Zuma had interfered:
"The allegations are baseless and at worst ludicrous, and they are purely concocted in order to tarnish the image and integrity of the president and the government of South Africa."
On Sept. 28, South African publication Times Live attempted to resurrect a scandal, on behalf of the Democratic Alliance opposition party, alleging Zuma involvement in an arms scandal with a French arms firm. Previous French President Nicolas Sarkozy had visited South Africa on March 3, 2011, to get the R1 trillion reactor deal for six reactors, the largest tender in South Africa's history, for which France was considered to have the edge. President Francois Hollande also later visited South Africa, and discussed the nuclear project.
The dominant figure in Times Live is South African businessman Tokyo Sexuale, a major player in the South African diamond industry.