DA leader Mmusi Maimane. File photo: ANA

CAPE TOWN - The Democratic Alliance will not allow China’s model of “debt trap diplomacy” to take root in South Africa, and will approach the courts if necessary to ensure that government is transparent with the public about the terms and conditions of loans received from China, DA leader Mmusi Maimane said on Sunday.

"On the 10th of September I submitted a Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) request for the terms and conditions of the R33 billion loan from the China Development Bank (CDB) to Eskom to be made public," he said.

In terms of the act, Eskom had 30 days to answer to the request for this information. This deadline had passed and the terms and conditions of the loan remained suspiciously secret.

"I have therefore submitted a notice of internal appeal to Eskom in terms of section 75 of PAIA for not granting my request for access to the terms and conditions of the loan. If Eskom fails to honour the further 10-day deadline set by this notice of appeal the DA will not hesitate to take the necessary legal action and approach the courts for relief," Maimane said.

In addition, he had formally approached President Cyril Ramaphosa, Eskom chairman Jabu Mabuza, and CDB liaison in South Africa Jiangtao Cao, none of whom had been willing to play open cards and disclose the terms and conditions of the R33 billion loan.

South Africans needed to be assured that this loan did not tie the country and taxpayers to unaffordable and unfair terms and conditions. The DA would not allow China’s model of “debt trap diplomacy” to take root in South Africa, he said.

Ramaphosa had committed his administration to greater transparency and accountability. However, when pressed with a real example like this loan, he had chosen to follow the path of secrecy that was entrenched under former president Jacob Zuma. This was an opportunity for Ramaphosa to play open cards with the public about "what this loan commits us to, and we expect him to do so".

Finance Minister Tito Mboweni’s maiden medium-term budget policy statement (MTBPS) this past week confirmed that "Eskom’s weak financial position remains a risk that could lead to a call on guarantees". After Eskom made a R2.3 billion loss with R41.5 billion gross finance costs and over R20 billion in irregular expenditure in the past financial year, there was reasonable doubt as to Eskom’s ability to pay back this R33 billion loan to the CDB.

"If Eskom and the failing ANC government refuse to open the books on this loan the DA will not hesitate to take the appropriate legal action," Maimane said.

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African News Agency (ANA)