The reason that the state capture project got as deeply into SA society as it did during the years of Jacob Zuma’s ruinous presidency, was because of a culture of secrecy in government.
It is disturbing to see that culture being perpetuated during the “new dawn” promised by President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Eskom has just been given massive loans for infrastructure development from China, but refuses to disclose the details or terms of the loans. Eskom’s argument is that the deals are commercial in nature and it is accepted practice around the world that such agreements contain confidentiality clauses.
We argue that because Eskom is a state-owned enterprise (SOE), which gains its revenue mainly from South Africans, and which is perpetually bailed out by the long-suffering South African taxpayer, then citizens have a right to know the details.
This is especially relevant given the fact that government has guaranteed the loans, which means that if Eskom defaults, taxpayers will cough up the money for the Chinese.
The fact that there is a blackout on the information indicates that, at the very least, these loans are not soft and will be paid back with interest calculated at market rates, or even above them.
It is sad to see that Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan, who oversees all SOEs, is part of this secrecy because he and his office refer all queries on the loans back to Eskom. Not quite what is expected from a man who has made a name for himself as an icon of clean governance and transparency.
The other aspect to the loans is the reality that the Chinese have given us exactly nothing.
So they are not doing us any favours. Let us not forget that in all the Brics hoopla.