There are two important points of principle to be made.
Firstly, a generous and charitable spirit is a praiseworthy quality for any nation, as it is for any person. It is right that South Africa should be known in the community of nations as generous people who are willing to help where and when we can.
Secondly, whenever an opportunity allows, we should always seek to lead other countries in democratic transition, respect for human rights, constitutionalism and freedom. When we can, we must leverage our influence and stand as an example to the world.
Now we must ask, given these principles, whether the “solidarity” grant and assistance package to Cuba we are considering today is appropriate. In short, it is not.
South Africa should not declare any “solidarity” with the Castro regime. Cuban law limits freedom of expression, association, assembly, movement, and the press. Human Rights Watch has documented evidence of systematic human rights abuses in Cuba, including torture, arbitrary imprisonment and extrajudicial executions.
Yet today the ANC proposes that this Parliament declare our “solidarity” with the Castro regime by giving them R250 million, over and above the R1.1 billion of bad Cuban debt that President Zuma wrote off last year. This “solidarity” grant is unconditional; it contains not a single word about respecting human rights, moving towards a freer society, or the release of political prisoners.
If the ANC wants to betray its history of standing up for liberty and democracy, it is free to do so. But this Parliament should not.
Ironically, Speaker, the solidarity grant is being financed from the “African Renaissance Fund” in the Department of International Relations. Why this fund is being used to support a country thousands of miles from Africa is one question. But the more important point is that this fund is being used to prop up a system of government whose ideas are completely inimical to the African Renaissance.
The Castro regime should be consigned to the pages of political history, interesting only for what it can teach us about how not to organise society. It is a modern absurdity on the lunatic fringe of global politics.
If the ANC wants to support it, then it should use Chancellor House money to do so. It should not make South Africa pay for its friendship with the Castro regime.