Today the Trade & Industry Committee held an intense debate on the approval of the charitable Trade Assistance Agreement with Cuba, which expressly in the name of "solidarity" with Cuba, gives Cuba R350 million worth of subsidies, charitable grants, soft non-recourse loans and other benefits, with no identifiable counter-benefit for South Africa.
In committee ANC MPs admitted that the purpose of the treaty is a payback for the assistance Cuba provided to the ANC during the liberation struggle, thereby showing their lack of appreciation for the difference between national interest and the political interests of the ruling party.
It is surely not in the interest of any one of us today to give our hard-earned and much needed money to the Cuban government, to foster its rule and perpetrate the self-inflicted economic damage which the treaty ostensibly wishes to mitigate. During the debate, all opposition parties voted against the treaty and lamented that the treaty imposes no condition in respect of Cuba's commitment to human rights, or at least, to open dialogue in respect of human rights protection.
The DTI's deputy director-general, supported by the ANC majority, took the absurd stand that human rights protection and a dialogue about democracy have nothing to do with trade agreements and the DTI does not wish to get involved in such matters.
An hour later, in the same building, in the Justice Committee, in response to my questions, the CEO of the Human Rights Commission, and several of HRC Commissioners, categorically stated that the Commission had engaged the DTI and DIRCO to ensure that human rights considerations were brought to the fore whenever dealing with trade matters and any aspect of international relations or cooperation with countries with a poor human rights record.
The conflict between what gets spoken and what is actually done within parliament and government could not have been more evident and dramatic. It reveals that the ANC only pays lip service to the cause and values of democracy and still has in its chest a communist and totalitarian beating heart.