Goldman Prize: Two South African activists win for halting secret Russian nuclear deal

Fighting South Africa's proposed nuclear reactor with Russia has been a two-year battle for Makoma Lekalakala (left) and Liz McDaid.

Lagos, Nigeria (CNN)It was the ultimate David versus Goliath battle.

Two female South African activists working for small NGOs took on the South African government. They won a legal challenge that stopped a $76 billion dollar nuclear deal with Russia.
For their herculean efforts, Makoma Lekalakala, 52, and Liz McDaid, 55, were awarded the prestigious 2018 Goldman Environmental Prize on Monday.
"These were hard won gains," Lekalakala said on being awarded the Goldman prize. "But for us the whole thing was about holding our leadership accountable to the people. We really fought for it."
    The highly-coveted Goldman prize is awarded annually to six people from six different continents who undertake "sustained and significant efforts to protect and enhance the natural environment, often at great personal risk."
    The activists challenged the proposed nuclear deal in court on the grounds that negotiations were kept secret and an agreement was reached without parliamentary debate in South Africa.
    In a landmark ruling on April 26, 2017, a High Court in Cape Town pulled the plug on the nuclear deal, declaring it unlawful and unconstitutional.
    Other nuclear power deals South Africa had signed with corporations in the US and South Korea were also voided by the court.
    The government's attempt to put the state power utility company Eskom in charge of procurement instead of the country's electricity regulator was also declared illegal.
    The ruling also stated that all nuclear proposals in South Africa must get a public hearing and parliamentary approval.
    The energy minister at the time said it would not appeal the case and indicated it would seek new deals with parliament consultation. "We will try our level best to start signing new agreements," said Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane in a statement.
    Liz McDaid speaking with community members.