In most scenarios, governments sign clandestine deals worth billions of dollars without any public consultation of approval from Parliament. The citizens are unaware of the deals, only to become aware when ink has already been put to paper. However, this was not the case in South Africa, where two women successfully challenged a nuclear deal that did not materialize.
In 2014, then president of South Africa, Jacob Zuma, sought a nuclear deal with Vladimir Putin worth $76 billion. South Africa's plans to build nuclear plants with Russia seemed to have been substantiating, until they were challenged by two women.
These women, Makoma Lekalakala and Liz McDaid, mounted a spirited resistance to this deal by launching a court battle, in which they won. It was a protracted five-year battle with the government to ensure the deal did not come to fruition. It could be safe to say that their story serves as good precedent to other citizens in the country and in Africa as well that governments can be challenged. Even if it may seem at first futile, it is worth to try a shot.
The main argument that was laid by Makoma Lekalakala and Liz McDaid was that there had been no proper consultation with the public. Whenever clandestine deals are pursued, excluding the views of others, then alarm bells need to ring as quick as possible.
The ruling from a High court was that the plans were unlawful and unconsitutional, as there had been no adequate and wide consultation with Parliament. The court hence agreed with Ms Lekalakala and Ms McDaid that there simply had not been proper consultation that was a requisite before pursuing the deal.
Because of their valiant efforts in preserving their environment, they have been awarded the Goldman prize. The annual Goldman environmental prize recognises "environmental heroes" and "grassroots activists" deemed to have made "significant achievements to protect the environment".
The two women are passionate with human rights and with protecting the environment. Both were also involved in the anti-apartheid struggle. Ms Lekalakala works for Earthlife Africa Johannesburg (ELA) while Ms McDaid belongs to the Southern African Faith Communities' Environment Institute (SAFCEI). Clearly, they are environmentalists at heart.
Their victory with the nuclear deal now means that in future any plan of this nature must first be approved by parliament and opened up to the public. Which is only right, anyway. Speaking to the BBC, Ms McDaid said, "Government tends to regard its citizens as sheep that will do what it says".
"When you see that something is not right you have to stand up, but often you're standing up to a bunch of bullies".
Remarkable story it is. It set a good precedent in South Africa. There is absolutely no need to go after such deals in a secretive manner without any consultation of sorts. By consultation, regard will be given to sensitive issues such as the protection of the environment.