Shared fission: finally, the white right and black right are united
The Koeberg kerfuffle shows it’s important to highlight moments when Saffers come together for a common cause
When Corné Mulder asked parliament if any poisonous sludge had recently seeped into the public domain, a simple “not yet” would have sufficed: Steve Hofmeyr is only performing at Afrikaans Is Groot in November. Instead, Pravin Radebe* issued a statement about Koeberg, and that’s when the whole thing went belly-up.
Yes, read the state’s reply, there had been three small leaks of radioactive waste from the Cape Town nuclear plant in 2014 and 2015, but the amounts of radiation in the water and air that escaped were “negligible”.
I understand why some people were alarmed by that response. It is never pleasant hearing that nuclear power plants in the middle of a city have coughed up some glow-in-the-dark loogies, or that the government decided not to tell anyone because it didn’t want to worry them. Then there’s the fact that Pradebe works for the ANC, which thinks “accountability” means being able to count. (Imagine how much accountability they needed to pack that car boot with R80m.)
Still, it is important not to panic. Nuclear energy is extremely safe until it’s not, and besides, given the metals they’re pulling out of dead sharks around Cape Town right now, radioactive waste is the least of my health worries. (I’m calling it now: in the next 10 years our major retailers are going to start marketing heavy metals as the next health craze, with a mascot called Leady Mercury belting out Who Wants To Live Forever?).
So why mention this non-story at all? Well, in these angry, anxious times it’s important to highlight moments when South Africans are brought together in support of a common cause. And this week the Koeberg kerfuffle has united the white right and the black right in glorious lockstep.
It all goes back to that initial question by Mulder. He wasn’t asking it because he’d started feeling a bit poorly while eating fish and chips at Blouberg. He asked it because his supporters have been demanding answers; and they’ve been demanding answers because they spent last week gorging on alt-right websites that have been howling about leaks that happened five years ago.
It looks like civic concern but of course it’s just racist schadenfreude: a nuclear disaster would be the ultimate prize in the white right’s trophy room of grievances about black government.
This group believes it has nothing in common with that government, but it is mistaken: the black right also dreams of Koeberg’s end. Because when Koeberg finally cracks, it will have to be replaced, and that means the kind of kickbacks that wouldn’t fit into 50 car boots.
I know. It’s not exactly the Rainbow Nation dream of harmony and unity. But common ground is a start, right?
* Fin24 says it was Pravin Gordhan. Everyone else** says it was Jeff Radebe.
** “Everyone else” is a menagerie of websites your misanthropic uncle keeps linking to on Facebook, but in case Radebe really was involved, I’m throwing him in gratis.