Two South African women win Goldman prize for stopping a major nuclear deal

Two South African women who successfully challenged a secret, multibillion-dollar nuclear deal have won a major environmental prize. Makoma Lekalakala and Liz McDaid led a five-year court battle against South Africa's plans to build nuclear power plants with Russia.


South Africa's former President Jacob Zuma had reached an agreement with Russia's leader Vladimir Putin in 2014. It was worth an estimated ($76bn) £54bn. The US and South Korea had signed co-deals, in 2009 and 2010 respectively, to be involved with the project, but last year a high court ruled the plan was unlawful and unconstitutional, agreeing with Ms Lekalakala and Ms McDaid's claims that it had been arranged without proper consultation with parliament.

The landmark ruling means that any future nuclear proposals must first be passed in parliament and opened up to the public.  "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"  Ms McDaid told the BBC's Newsday programme.  

Both women who were both active in the anti-apartheid struggle, represent two small human rights groups. Ms Lekalakala works for Earthlife Africa Johannesburg (ELA) while Ms McDaid belongs to the Southern African Faith Communities' Environment Institute (SAFCEI).  "Both of us grew up in the 1970s and 1980s and we made a commitment then to challenge any injustices taking place," Ms Lekalakala said.  "We need to protect our hard-won gains and rights."  The annual Goldman environmental prize recognises "environmental heroes" and "grassroots activists" deemed to have made "significant achievements to protect the environment".

Other winners of the global award this year hail from Colombia, France, the Philippines, Vietnam and the US.

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