SA will not turn a blind eye to Cuba's economy 'brought to its knees by US sanctions' - Naledi Pandor

Naledi Pandor. (Photo: Morapedi Mashashe)
Naledi Pandor. (Photo: Morapedi Mashashe)
  • International Relations and Cooperation Minister Naledi Pandor says South Africa will not turn its back on Cuba.
  • On Thursday, Pandor told Parliament it would be unethical for South Africa to turn a blind eye to Cuba's economic situation.
  • The government has plans to donate R50 million to Cuba, but this has hit a snag due to a court challenge.

South Africa cannot turn a blind eye to the plight of Cuba while illegal blockades and US sanctions strangle its economy.

This according to International Relations and Cooperation Minister Naledi Pandor.

On Thursday, she delivered her department's budget vote in Parliament and took the opportunity to reiterate the government's support of Cuba.

"Many countries ask for assistance. We will continue to contribute what we can. We believe this is a vital obligation, and as one of the world's nations, we must honour it.

"We are also prepared to act in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Cuba. As we cannot turn a blind eye to their plight while their economy is strangled by illegal blockades and sanctions.

"The Cuban economy has been brought to its knees after 61 years of draconian US sanctions imposed on the impoverished island nation," she said.

READ | Court dismisses govt's application to appeal AfriForum interdict on R50m Cuban donation

Pandor's declaration of support comes days after the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria dismissed, with costs, the government's application for leave to appeal the court's ruling that AfriForum could interdict it from donating R50 million to Cuba.

Previously, Pandor said Cuba faced chronic food, fuel, medicine and electricity shortages.

Even President Cyril Ramaphosa said health items, and not money, would be donated to Cuba.

The African Renaissance and International Cooperation Fund (ARF), located within the Department of International Relations and Cooperation, and legally constituted to implement humanitarian assistance of this nature, is coordinating the project.

In March, News24 reported the government had no plans to write off an R84.6 million loan made to the Cuban government in 2021.

Furthermore, Pandor said Cuba's assistance to South Africa during apartheid could not be underestimated.

"This is a nation that stood shoulder to shoulder with our combatants in the struggle for freedom. And we must help if we can.

"It was the Cubans who sent their sons and daughters to fight for the liberation of southern Africa. Of course those who were never in the trenches fighting for freedom cannot appreciate this history.

"Cuba played a pivotal role in turning the tide against our colonial oppressors. It would be unjustified and unethical to turn our backs on them in their hour of greatest need. We will also consolidate the causes of other countries," she added.

ANC MP and chairperson of the Parliament's International Relations Committee Supra Mahumapelo said the matter should be dealt with in line with the Constitution and South Africa's historical relationship with Cuba.

"Look at the implications of the court judgment. It is our expectation that the department will report and account to Parliament on this matter. We will ensure that the department focuses its energies on economic diplomacy," he added.

IFP MP Mkhuleko Hlengwa said South Africa must continue to make its presence known on the international stage.

READ | SANDF duo pushed back against top brass: Inside the R200m Cuban Covid-19 drug deal

He also highlighted the department's poor financial management.

"The department incurred unauthorised expenditure of R150 million. The irregular expenditure was R187 million. There are serious questions to be asked and grave concerns to be raised about how it manages its finances. This complete lack of internal control and consequence management is unacceptable," Hlengwa added.

DA MP Darren Bergman said the department had several missions abroad but was being held ransom by the Department of Home Affairs on when and how consular services were delivered.

"We must outsource our consular services to private companies like many other countries in the world do. Not only will we economise on our wage bill, but our tight budget will also be able to stretch to more worthy causes. It is sad that a department with a relatively small budget still manages to waste it, given the domestic pressures we face," he added.

EFF MP Thembi Msane said Pandor should retire, and someone much younger should lead the department.

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