YOU want a flashy new car. But you don't have the money to buy it. If you insist on buying the car, say your family and friends, you will bankrupt your entire household.

The repayments will be too high. Plus, why not do some minor repairs on your current car — which still runs pretty faithfully — instead of getting this unaffordable, flashy, big monster of a new car?

Anyone who runs a household will know this dilemma. In fact, you don't even have to run a household. Kids at schools across the country are often given exercises in which they have to write down a budget and balance their books. They know they can't buy the great big lollipop they want if they are to enjoy the joys of a new book.

These are basics. So, last week I was taken aback to read that the top echelons of our Department of Energy called a press conference to tell us that they do not care about budgets and that they will get their fancy new toys — and along the way squeeze consumers and bankrupt the country — whether the country likes it or not.

This is what Business Day reported about this extraordinary press conference:

"Officials from the Department of Energy yesterday stated categorically that South Africa would procure 9600MW of nuclear energy, despite the government not having an accurate understanding of what this might cost either the fiscus or consumers.

"The procurement would also go ahead, despite the fact that the Treasury had not conducted an affordability study."

Stop right there. What the august leaders of the Department of Energy, under the leadership of minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson — she who was twice found to have spent taxpayers' money recklessly by the public protector — do not know is what this potentially trillion-rand project will cost, what effect it will have on you and what effect it will have on the finances of the country.

The man who holds the keys to South Africa's safe, Minister of Finance Nhlanhla Nene, has not been consulted. His ministry has not been consulted. But Joemat-Pettersson and her officials do not care. They are going ahead.

"I can confirm to you that there will be a procurement process. The government will take a decision in the national interest. So yes, there will be a procurement process and, once that has been approved, that information will be communicated," said deputy director-general for nuclear energy in the department Zizamele Mbambo.

The man who holds the keys to South Africa's safe, Minister of Finance Nhlanhla Nene, has not been consulted. His ministry has not been consulted. But Joemat-Pettersson and her officials do not care. They are going ahead.

There are several messages embedded in that statement. The first is, we don't know what it will cost, but shut up and lie down while we spend your tax money without accountability.

Second: this is in the national interest so shut up while we cloak it in secrecy and kickbacks and rob the Treasury blind.

Be afraid, be very afraid, when politicians and their lackeys in the government begin to tell you about "the national interest". It is a nebulous term that generally means that politicians want a blank cheque to steal and break the law. Ask Richard Nixon. Ask Adolf Hitler.

Don't expect Joemat-Pettersson to ask her officials to stop, do some number-crunching and then account to the nation. After all, her department, when she was at Agriculture and Fisheries, received qualified audits and she was found "guilty" on two occasions by the public protector. That, perhaps, is why the president of South Africa appointed her to her portfolio: she seems to have no respect for the law or the budget of South Africa.

The whole thing just gets worse. Mbambo also told the press conference that the tender for nuclear power "might not be an open tender". It might be a closed tender, or a government-to-government deal, he said.

Wow. So the president of South Africa, who now oversees this process after he scrapped the interministerial committee on nuclear procurement, will appoint whomever he likes and the whole thing will be cloaked in secrecy.

Oh, in case you did not get my drift, you, the consumer, will pay for this lack of financial understanding or prudence.

There isn't a single economist or financier I have spoken to who thinks that this lunatic project can be properly financed without bankrupting South Africa. Yet it is being bulldozed through, despite the fact that it does not make sense at any level.

We are told to shut up and accept the word from on high because we need electricity and this is allegedly good for us. The arrogance is mind-boggling.

Where is the voice of Jeff Radebe, the minister in charge of implementing the National Development Plan, which discourages a nuclear energy building programme?

Where is Cyril Ramaphosa? Crucially, where in the world is Nhlanhla Nene, the minister of finance, and the man who surely must have the final word on this delusional and corrupt caper?

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