We shouldn’t be bailing Cuba out
Geordin Hill-Lewis, Shadow Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry
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.