UK says SA given warning of aid cut

2013-05-01 21:16
William Hague (Picture: AFP)

William Hague (Picture: AFP)

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London - Foreign Secretary William Hague insisted on Wednesday that Britain discussed its decision to cut off aid to South Africa with officials there, after Pretoria reacted angrily to what it said was a shock announcement.

Britain currently sends €22m of bilateral aid a year to South Africa, but said on Tuesday it will stop the payments by 2015 because South Africa was the continent's economic powerhouse.

But Pretoria claimed the decision had been "unilateral" and warned it could damage relations between the two countries.

Hague said Britain would clear up any "bureaucratic confusion" about the announcement, but said it should not have come as a surprise to South African officials.

"Discussions have been going on about that for some months, it therefore shouldn't have been a surprise," he told BBC radio.

"No doubt there is some confusion or bureaucratic confusion about that perhaps, on the South African side, but I'm not going to fling accusations about that.

"We will be holding in the near future our annual bilateral forum where ministers of all departments discuss things together. If there's any confusion about this I'm sure we will clear that up then."

Britain's International Development Secretary Justine Greening had said her government's relationship with South Africa - a former British dominion - should be based on trade rather than aid following its transition from apartheid to a "flourishing democracy".

"South Africa has made enormous progress over the past two decades, to the extent that it is now the region's economic powerhouse and Britain's biggest trading partner in Africa," she told a conference of African ministers and business leaders in London.

"I have agreed with my South African counterparts that South Africa is now in a position to fund its own development."

But South Africa insisted it had not been given advance notice of the announcement.

"This is such a major decision with far-reaching implications on the projects that are currently running and it is tantamount to redefining our relationship," the Department of International Relations and Co-operation said in a statement.

"Ordinarily, the UK government should have informed the government of South Africa through official diplomatic channels of their intentions and allowed for proper consultations to take place."

British Prime Minister David Cameron has repeatedly vowed to protect the 0.7% of national income that the government spends on overseas aid from his austerity drive.

But in November last year it announced that it would stop all its aid to India in 2015 because of New Delhi's growing economic clout.

While many South Africans remain poor, the economy is roughly the size of that of Austria.

Read more on:    william hague  |  uk  |  aid
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