JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Friday that a private meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin this week ended with an agreement that the two countries would discuss a nuclear power deal in the future.
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin (L) shakes hands with South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa at the BRICS summit in Johannesburg, South Africa July 26, 2018. Sputnik/Alexei Nikolsky/Kremlin via REUTERS
Ramaphosa has put nuclear expansion on the back burner since taking office in February, saying it is too expensive, and has focused instead on pledges to revive the economy and crack down on corruption.
His scandal-plagued predecessor, Jacob Zuma, had championed a deal to dramatically increase South Africa’s nuclear capacity despite concern from ratings agencies that it would deal a further blow to the country’s already strained public finances.
“We have huge financial constraints, we are not able to proceed with a nuclear build program,” Ramaphosa told a news conference at the end of the BRICS summit.
“President Putin was quite relaxed about this. He said you deal with your issues and when the situation changes we can keep talking about this. And that’s where we left it. There’s no other hidden agenda,” Ramaphosa added.
Kremlin-controlled Rosatom, a clear leader in the global nuclear industry, was one of the front runners for the massive nuclear project championed by Zuma.
A Rosatom executive told Reuters on Thursday that the company was “still interested” in helping South Africa expand its nuclear capacity.
Reporting by James Macharia and Alexander Winning; Editing by Andrew Heavens