South Africa: Why are details of the Chinese Loan Kept Confidential?

Published on 16th October 2018

South Africa recently obtained a loan from China which President Cyril Ramaphosa says its details are still confidential. Why should the details of a loan to this country be made confidential when South Africa is portrayed as a democratic, transparent and accountable country? Transparency leads to accountability which are hallmarks of a democratic country. The ANC government should not take a loan and make details thereof after the fact. It is like putting the cart before the horse. Loans go with strings attached. The people of this country should study the conditions of the loan and accept or reject it before the government accepts it. It should not be the other way around.

What is the difference between what former President Jacob Zuma tried to do about the nuclear deal with the Russians and what the current President is doing regarding the Chinese loan to this country? Loans almost invariably have unacceptable conditions attached to them which is probably the reason Ramaphosa kept the details of the loan confidential. And why should a mineral-rich country such as South Africa borrow money from foreign governments?

I have been writing about the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank and development issues from 1989. There are two articles I wrote for Botswana’s weekly publication The Gazette in the first two weeks of November 1989. During that time most of these ANC guys were in exile preparing to return to South Africa as their leaders had been holding secret meetings with apartheid government officials and captains of industry. Those who were in Botswana must have read those critical articles about the IMF and World Bank.

In the early 1990’s when news made the rounds that the ANC leadership was going to borrow $850,000 from the IMF, I cautioned against such a move in the Sowetan. They were not yet in government yet they borrowed money from the IMF. They knew something that most of us didn’t know and, that is, they were going to form the next government. The election outcome, as I have argued before, was pre-determined which was the result of the secret deals.

On April 29, 1996, I wrote an article which was published in the Business Section of the Sowetan in which I criticised the manipulation of the rand and the silly stories that attributed the strength and/or weakness of the rand to extraneous factors such as Nelson Mandela’s health. I questioned the relaxation of exchange controls and the removal of two-tier currency system.

In 1996 when the Growth, Employment and Redistribution (GEAR) was adopted, Cosatu leadership said it had mixed feelings until I wrote a critique of GEAR which was published in the New Nation of 16 August 1996.

In the late 1990’s early 2000’s, I wrote an article in the Sowetan criticising the IMF and World Bank. I also wrote a letter in the Citizen of 1st December 2009 criticising Eskom for taking a loan from the World Bank

I repeated my criticism on 20 November 2011 in a Youth Web magazine in an article published under the headline, “South Africa and Eskom’s World Bank Loan.”

By Sam Ditshego

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