Eskom’s R33 billion loan agreement with the China Development Bank poses a real and significant threat to our country’s economy and general well-being. A loan of such magnitude needs to be properly scrutinised to ensure that the ANC government is not desperately selling our sovereignty off to financially bail itself out.

It is for that reason that I flatly reject Eskom’s response to my application to gain access to the full liability and conditions of this loan in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA). Yesterday, Eskom’s Information Officer, Mr Eddie Laubscher, informed me in writing that ‘Eskom has decided to grant the request partially.’

He then claims that an annexure to the letter – which is available on Eskom’s website – makes the repayment terms, guarantees and loan amount records available. However, a pedestrian reading of this makes it clear that this is a disingenuous attempt by Eskom, and seeks to provide only certain terms and conditions, which provide no clarity on this matter.

The annexure only states the following information:

‘” Final Maturity Date” means the date falling one hundred and eighty (180) Months after the Financial Closing Date…

“First Repayment Date” means the Interest Payment Date falling immediately after the date that is sixty (60) Months after the Financial Closing Date…

“Interest Payment Date” means each 12th March and 12th September falling after the Utilisation Date and on or prior to the Final Maturity.’

This is – for all intents and purposes – a non-disclosure. The reality is that Eskom has expressly refused to disclose the material information of the loan that actually affects the pockets of South Africans. This includes the interest rates agreed to; total amount payable; total interest charged; and annual percentage rate of a R33 billion loan received from the China Development Bank (CDB).

Eskom is more concerned by the CDB being put at a ‘disadvantage in contractual or other negotiations as well as prejudice them in commercial competition’ than being transparent and open with the people of South Africa. The ‘commercial and/or financial interests’ of Eskom and the CDB are clearly more important to the power utility than our national interest.

Eskom’s fealty to the ‘duty of confidence owed to CDB’ seems like a dereliction of their duty to the people of South Africa. Eskom’s position that disclosing further would undermine their funding efforts is tragically ironic when one of the primary reasons for my PAIA was because there is sound reason to doubt whether Eskom can pay back this R33 billion loan to the CDB.

I have since submitted a Notice of Internal Appeal to Eskom in terms of section 75 of the Promotion of Access to Information Act for not granting my request for access to the terms and conditions of the R33 billion loan from the China Development Bank within the 30-day PAIA period. If Eskom fails to disclose the full, unredacted terms and conditions of this loan, the DA will not hesitate to take the necessary legal action and approach the courts for relief

Finance Minister Tito Mboweni’s Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS) last week confirmed that ‘Eskom’s weak financial position remains a risk.’ In the last financial year alone, the power utility has made a R2.3 billion loss with R41.5 billion gross finance costs and over R20 billion in irregular expenditure.

We cannot afford to continue the ANC’s era of secrecy when it pertains to matters that affect ordinary South Africans. 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.