SA signs R350m economic assistance deal with Cuba

South Africa has signed an agreement to provide Cuba with R350 million in economic assistance, Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies said on Friday.

“The signing ceremony today concludes the process of amending the agreement and the package is now available for potential exporters to take advantage of,” he said in a statement.

President Jacob Zuma made the offer to Cuba during his state visit in December 2010, Davies said. The agreement was originally signed in February 2012, but the implementation was delayed and amendments needed to be made.
The money would be used for agricultural development and reconstruction of infrastructure following hurricane damage in 2008. 

“Further, it is envisaged that the package will stimulate bilateral trade relations between South Africa and Cuba.”
The agreement included a R40-million grant to purchase seeds from South Africa and elsewhere in the world, a R100-million solidarity grant to purchase goods from South Africa, and a R210-million credit line.

DA criticises deal
The Democratic Alliance (DA) criticised the agreement.
“This R350-million giveaway to Cuba is a misuse of public money …
We condemn this handout in the strongest terms,” MP Geordin Hill-Lewis said in a statement.
“The cash crunch in South Africa’s budget is well known. We cannot afford to hand out money to Cuba for no other purpose than to maintain the political ties.” 

There was no value in the deal for South Africa, he said.
“We should not be strengthening our ties with governments that do not respect basic constitutional and democratic principles.
“It is a tragic irony that South Africa is helping to fund a regime that denies its citizens the same democratic freedoms that were so hard won in our own country.” – Sapa