…says China-Africa deals are not threat to sovereignty
By Lerato Matheka
Lesotho’s Prime Minister Thomas Thabane has this week allayed fears that loans and grants received from the People’s Republic of China could be a threat to the country’s sovereignty.
Thabane was speaking at a press briefing on Tuesday following his return from the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) held in Beijing, China.
This years’ summit took place in the midst of news from across the region alleging China has a policy of seizing national assets of countries defaulting on payments of debts as a measure to enforce repayment.
Claims reported widely as African Leaders and Chinese President Xi Jinping was that China is now taking over a Zambian airport to ensure repayment of loans as it has allegedly done same in Sri Lanka where a port is now under Chinese control.
But, Thabane came back from FOCAC defending the Red Dragon saying claims that African countries are required to put forth national assets as surety to qualify for financial assistance are false.
Thabane also told the press “it would be foolish to take the Chinese loans without having weighed risks”.
Having experienced colonial Africa, and the post-independence era, the Premier further gave the Red Dragon’s financial assistance thumps up saying the western powers colonised Africa through use of deceitful, religion or barrel of the gun power as opposed civility shown by China in its dealings with Africa.
“When the western colonisers came to Africa, at first, what they did was to bribe the chief or kill him.
“If there were a group of people who disagreed with them they massacred them, in turn when those people realized they were going to lose their lives, they raised their hands in surrender.
“The colonisers even came to Africa leaving their wives in their countries and only to take wives of those people they murdered.
“They did everything that belittled our people, but the Chinese government sat us in a hall with papers entailing issues which were open for discussion and amendment.
“It is a genuine negotiation between civilised people and we have to believe in something,” said Thabane.
He added, “here is a world out there with so much hostility where wealthy countries are becoming wealthier and poor countries becoming poorer.
“The rich people are becoming richer while poor people are becoming poorer, but, here is a country that has made it through a revolution and strive stretching a hand to working with us, showing us how it managed and helping us manage to get out of a mess that we are now in, and we are saying fine let’s go.
“Now, as I said we know the world history of what happened, it would be very foolish to walk in there without weighing the pros and cons.
“I think our people, should have confidence in us that we cannot sell them out for anything.”
Adding to Thabane’s sentiments, Development Planning Minister Tlohelang Aumane who was also part of Thabane’s envoy to the FOCAC summit refuted allegations that Africans countries are requested to put forward surety in state-owned assets to qualify to the China loans.
He explains what is happening in other African countries as a ‘take-over’ process intended to turn the assets around to be profitable and to recover Chinese investments.
“There isn’t any surety requested but rather what has been trending on the social media has been about assets that are being taken over by China because those assets are ailing and cannot perform and as a result, the countries are unable to pay the loans.
“You may be aware what take-over of assets are, it is not taking over the gift but taking over the control of the assets so that it is turned around to make money to settle the debt and investment put forward for the implementation of such, however, as Lesotho we do not have such projects,” said Aumane.
Aumane emphasised “Lesotho is far from defaulting on its loans. Lesotho is one of those countries whose debt to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is less than 60% while some other African countries are over 80% so, such countries are in danger of defaulting on their loans.” Click here to see more stories on China-Lesotho relations.
Aumane further notes Lesotho has not been enjoying a lot of debt forgiveness because “we are not indebted yet”.
For his part, Thabane adds that the Chinese like everybody else, have the wisdom to know whom they can lend their money to, “…and the fact that they have come forward to offer to give us loans is to prove that we ourselves have impressed the world that we are a country to do business with at minimum risk and we have to work for that status and keep it”.
China has set aside US 60 billion dollars in financial support for Africa during the FOCAC summit.
The US 60 billion dollars financial support is according to the People’s Republic of China’s President Jinping in the form of government assistance as well as investments and financing by financial institutions and companies.
China will also expand its imports from Africa, especially for non-resources products, and will facilitate African financial institutions’ bond issuances in China, Xi added.
During the FOCAC summit, the FOCAC Beijing Action Plan (2019-2021) was adopted to confirm China and Africa will comprehensively enhance pragmatic cooperation focusing on the implementation of the eight major initiatives namely: industrial promotion; infrastructure connectivity; trade facilitation; green development; capacity building; health care; people-to-people exchange; and peace and security.