Just before his surprise Cabinet reshuffle, a high-level delegation acting for Russian president Vladimir Puttin met with President Jacob Zuma to instruct him to conclude the nuclear deal with the Russians, the Sunday Times reported.
Zuma then announced his 12th Cabinet reshuffle since he assumed office in 2009, in which he moved his close ally David Mahlobo from the intelligence ministry to the energy portfolio. A source told the Sunday Times that, while Zuma initially wanted to appoint former communications minister Faith Muthambi as energy minister, Mahlobo was handpicked by the Russians.
A source said the delegation gave a "final warning" to South Africa that the deal had to be concluded. The delegation reportedly included members of the military, police and intelligence.
Some believe the nuclear energy deal could cost up to R3-trillion, Fin24 reported. Treasury has reportedly been dead set against the deal, prompting tension between Zuma and former finance minister Pravin Gordhan.
The visit was reportedly prompted by Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba's comments at the International Monetary Fund and World Bank annual meeting in Washington last week, that South Africa could not afford the nuclear deal.
In April, the Western Cape High Court set aside the nuclear deal, ordering government to start the procurement process afresh.
Eyewitness News reported that the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) vowed to go to court if speculation about the nuclear deal is true.
Mahlobo and a presidential aide reportedly met with the Russians on Monday, a day before the Cabinet reshuffle.
In September, the Sunday Times reported that Gayton McKenzie and Kenny Kunene were about to become BEE partners in a multibillion-rand gas deal. They reportedly travelled to Russia to sell themselves to Russian gas company Rusgeo as potential BEE partners. Mahlobo reportedly accompanied them.