South Africa: We Shouldn't Be Bailing Cuba Out
By Geordin Hill-Lewis, 9 May 2012
Today the Portfolio Committee on Trade and Industry voted to approve the
R350 million economic assistance package to Cuba, including a
"solidarity" grant of R100 million.
The Democratic Alliance (DA) objected to the package and asked for a
vote on the matter. The vote was tied, with five votes for and five
against the package, requiring the Chairperson to use her casting vote
to break the tie in favour of approving the package.
The DA maintains that South Africa should not be bailing Cuba out.
Government should not use public money to maintain the political
friendship between the ANC and the Castro regime in Cuba.
This bailout, which was announced in February, but which must be
ratified by Parliament before it can be implemented, places no
conditions on the Cuban government for the respect of human rights or
democratic governance in that country.
Furthermore, R140 million of the package does not need to be repaid – it
is a gift to Cuba. It is also doubtful that Cuba will repay the loan
portion of the agreement, considering that government had to write off
R1.1 billion of bad Cuban debt last year.
There are several important questions that need to be answered about
this bailout, and I will be submitting parliamentary questions to establish:
• whether the "African Renaissance Fund", the fund from which this
bailout package is being financed, has ever previously been used to
assist a country outside of Africa;
• what the specific benefits to South Africa will be from the bailout
package, considering the comparatively small amount of trade that takes
place between Cuba and South Africa;
• whether this bailout package was requested by the Cuban government, or
initiated by the South African government?
The fact of the matter is that we have pressing concerns here right at
home. We have massive service delivery backlogs and government's
finances have come under ever increasing pressure as the on-going saga
around SANRAL and its e-tolling plans clearly illustrates. We cannot
afford to be throwing away money like this. It will not help to improve
our people's lives and will only help to prop up an anti-democratic and
nepotistic regime in Cuba. It cannot be justified.
Geordin Hill-Lewis, Shadow Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry