‘We owe a lot of people a lot of money’ – Mboweni

Country’s gross loan debt expected to increase to R5.2trn by fiscal 2023.
We must 'shore up’ and ‘pay back the massive obligations we have incurred’ says Finance Minister Tito Mboweni. Image: Dwayne Senior, Bloomberg

South Africa’s national debt servicing costs are forecast to surge by over 15% this year to almost R270 billion, swallowing more 20% of anticipated tax revenues.

This was revealed in 2021 budget documents tabled by Finance Minister Tito Mboweni following his budget speech in Cape Town on Wednesday.

Mboweni did not specifically cite the debt servicing costs figure during his speech, but did note that the country’s gross loan debt will increase from R3.95 trillion in the current fiscal year (2020/21) to R5.2 trillion in 2023/24.

“We owe a lot of people a lot of money,” he conceded.

“These include foreign investors, pension funds, local and foreign banks, unit trusts, financial corporations, insurance companies, the Public Investment Corporation and ordinary South African bondholders.”

Mboweni’s frank comments on the country’s financial state seemed to hit a nerve with a lot of South Africans reacting to the budget on social media platforms.

He pointed out that the country’s borrowing requirement “will remain well above R500 billion” in each year of the medium term despite the modest improvements in SA’s fiscal position.

“We must shore up our fiscal position in order to pay back the massive obligations we have incurred over the years.”

Read: Mboweni surprises: 2020 budget deficit revised down to 14% of GDP

According to the 2021 Budget Review, South Africa’s debt servicing costs are set to surpass the R300 billion mark in the 2022/2023 budgetary year.

The revised estimate of debt servicing costs last year came in at R232.9 billion. This is expected to rise to R269.7 billion in 2021, R308 billion in 2022, and up to R338.6 billion in 2023.

“Over the medium term, debt-service costs are expected to average 20.9% of gross tax revenue,” the Budget Review notes.

However, a more telling comparison in the review is that the “debt servicing costs” of R269.7 billion comes in as the third biggest component of government’s 2021 budget allocations.

Only education (now broadly referred to as ‘learning and culture’) and social security (referred broadly as ‘social development’) get more funds, at R402.9 billion and R335.3 billion respectively.

On South Africa’s debt outlook, Mboweni reiterated that “public finances are dangerously overstretched”.

He said there is a notion that government is “swimming in cash”.

“Certainly, compared to last October, we are in a better place. But our assessment from the Supplementary Budget in June last year still stands,” he added.

Economist’s comment

Commenting on the debt side of the budget, Citadel chief economist Maarten Ackerman said SA’s debt levels remain a concern.

“Debt-service costs are conservatively expected to approach 21% of tax revenue. This means that South Africa is far from out of the woods in terms of risking a debt spiral, with one of the highest debt-service levels in the world,” he noted.

“These high debt levels and interest repayments leave only 80% of revenue for key and productive government spending.”

Please consider contributing as little as R20 in appreciation of our quality independent financial journalism.



Sort by:
  • Oldest first
  • Newest first
  • Top voted

You must be signed in to comment.


This is such a depressing comment. Especially since we know that a very large chunk of the loans disappeared, having done nothing for the country or the majority of the citizens. Even worse is the fact that it was a burden entered into, for future generations to repay. ‘We owe a lot of people a lot of money’ is a very flippant way to hide the truth. Decisions were made and actions were deliberately taken that put us in this position. It was done by people like Mboweni, the ANC cadres and every single person who forgot about their children and the country. It is they who must bear the shame for this tragedy. My sympathy lies with the poor souls who will carry the burden for something they had no say over.

I just want to applaud two of your thoughts…decisions and actions were deliberately taken and for that these cadres should be utterly shameful!

Bwahaha, and you think shame is something you can use as a psychological bargaining chip with them? Where were the shame when hands dipped in the cookie jar? No, you show a great deal of understanding of the crux of the cause and effect here but a great deal ignorance for a fitting punishment. I can honestly not think of any punishment here other than capital punishment. Utterly ruining the hopes of the next generation is something South Africans have become too desensitized to.

Hence the reason for blue collar criminals to sweep streets and clean government buildings.

The ANC is wholly responsible for SA’s dire financial situation
Two things:

The oversized wage bill and
Looting by SOE’s, Municipalities and the Elite lining their pockets

Now they want to conduct lifestyle audits on the wealthy to help fill the hole, but fall short of locking up their own caders

The Zondo Commission is a smoke screen to fool us, the tax payers

The sad part is the looting continues unabated. Not a day goes by when you read about tender fraud, more recently PPE’s and many more

Cosatu wants Government to use the vaccine distribution as a test run for the NHI, yet their own Medical Aid Gems have reported corruption of R300 million

The NHI is set to receive upwards of a Billion Rand a day

Can you imagine the free for all that’s going to transpire from this?

They cannot keep an airplane in the air, trains on tracks let alone supply enough electricity, now they want to take charge of our health


The Zondo Commission will eventually cost us a BILLION RANDS … down the drain with no swift prosections. And then it’s the Magistrate’s court, the High Court, the Appeal Court, the Constitutional Court, and finally, a medical parole that you are terminally ill.

So far it’s worked for Schabir Shaik.

Well done ANC — You have now successfully bankrupted the country and will leave a legacy of debt to you children !!!
Absolutely marvelous !!!

The markets do not like this budget. Look at the ZAR today.

The Rand does fluctuates just as much (or even more) without the budget speech.
Forex markets have long killed simplistic causalities.

Nice, been waiting for rand to depreciate. Caught those dollar/rand bears off-side Nice one.

I think the saying is, ‘I oowe, I owe, I owe and off to work I go’. Debt makes you a slave of someone, you can neither enjoy peace of mind or happiness of any kind, you are seied by anxiety, and every knock on the door you fear you might be up for collection; so forget about any claims of having fredom and independence. As long as you owe or are indebted, your soul is lend to you and it belongs to the one you owe. So, get out there and collect the man’s money – neck to the yoke y’all!

…but i don’t see the government waistline slm, its girth is forever expanding…and its servants appetites for fine things ever expensive and expensive. so. who is going to tell them?

We all must remember that the ANC is always FIGHTING CORRUPTION and constantly introducing STRUCTURAL REFORMS accompanied by multiple SOCIAL COMPACTS in support of OUR PEOPLE. The ANC cannot be expected to get everything right first time. Rent seekers need be paid, canvasing for bribes need be encouraged and patronage networks must be constantly supplied with cash and favours.
No wonder ” We owe a lot of people a lot of money”.

“Only education (now broadly referred to as ‘learning and culture’) and social security (referred broadly as ‘social development’) get more funds, at R402.9 billion and R335.3 billion respectively.” There’s your solution. Every school kid, every grant recipient, to get a broom or shovel in hand and spend a few hours doing something useful.

how many meetings have Messrs R & T attended with big business execs/overseas investors/forums, in the last couple of years? And during those meetings, were they not warned about looming debt and the need to radically overhaul the economy for long term sustainability? As the saying goes, it doesn’t require rocket science to liberalize this economy, and achieve growth rates usually only seen in Asian tiger economies.Notwithstanding the Covid shock to our economy, this govt still has an opportunity to turn this economy around, but it requires huge courage, and quickly! Are they up to it?

“Gross debt has increased from 65.6% to 80.3% of GDP for the year 2020/21.” So basically we are like a family maxing out our R200,000 overdraft each month, we just bought a new car and we are planning our next ski holiday in Europe. A runaway train with no breaks.

Wonder how much of that debt servicing is interest repayment and how much is capital repayment? Maybe I missed it but doubt its much of the latter?

The lenders are big boys and girls that are supposed to do their due diligence. Anybody that lent Zuma money and subsequently was surprised deserves whatever they get.

The days of rich interest rates are bygones.

I am all for a haircut proposal. Lenders can choose between a ⅓ capital haircut or reset interest rates to prevailing rates.

Scandal? Half of the EU did that, why can’t we?

Half of the EU was able to do that because the other half (the well run rich countries) are propping up the Euro fx rate.
In SA if we did the same the Rand would not just depreciate it would go zimbo style

Crimson : true, but a weaker runt would more correctly reflect our current state instead of a fake rate from high interest rates. A weak runt would also make our exports more competitive and discourage imports. We need jobs and exports and debt repaid or we are toast.

Try that Johan and your immediate borrowing costs will sky rocket and/or nobody will buy future bond issuances. South Africa borrows about R12b a week (more than R1b a day, every day). It will also probably trigger a default event.
We all know how to cut the cost of this debt, but the electorate favors socialist dreams with other peoples money. The 3 largest line items in the budget tells a story on its own.

Sure Lemon, I get that. My view is that
(1) even serial defaulters continue to access debt markets.
(2) why continue to pretend that we are not in the crapper? What were the rates and debt service costs in Argentina, Mexico, Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy etc before they re-organized, and what are ours?
(3) in a world of .25% interest rates and companies that issue zero percent bonds (Apple), does it make sense to continue to pay what we do?

Our debt holders knew what kind of government they were buying into when they invested. Somewhere in the investment committee they budgeted for this-could-go-tits-up. Now it has…

Forget about the money for now; you, the ANC, owe every South African citizen a functional country, a safe country, a country of promise and a country of compassion and unity.

You have failed in every respect. But with a good glass of single malt and a bottle of red wine, I’m sure you sleep pretty well.

I see the ANC is really sparking this week with a brilliant name change of the former ‘Port Elizabeth’. Excellent work guys. I’m sure the many unemployed people I saw sitting on pavements while driving yesterday – hoping for an employment miracle – will be most impressed. I wonder how much it costs to change the name of a town? If anyone thinks the country’s economic prospects are going to improve I have news for you.

Start with the politicians that stole the money?

Correction, Mboweni, your thieving anc party and your complicit voters and you alone, owe a lot of people and every South African a lot of money as well as your prosecution for treasonous theft and willful mismanagement of our state affairs and civil services.

“Democracy” should be outlawed in EVERY African country.

80% of revenue for spending. Who are you kidding. Lol.

End of comments.




How much do you earn per year?
How old are you?

Total tax:
Income after tax:

Total tax:
Income after tax:
Moneyweb is a financial, investment news provider and not a tax- or financial advice authority. Please contact Sars or a registered tax practitioner for any tax-related queries.


  CPIThe Consumer Price Index (CPI) measures monthly changes in prices for a range of consumer products Sep 2021 4.90%
  CPI ex OERThe Consumer Price Index excluding Owners’ Equivalent Rent (CPI ex OER) measures monthly changes in prices for a range of consumer products excluding Owners’ equivalent rent that measures changes in the cost of owner-occupied housing Sep 2021 5.50%
  RepoThe rate at which the Reserve Bank lends money to the country’s commercial banks and set by the Reserve Bank’s Monetary Policy Committee. Oct 2021 3.50%
  Prime lendingThe Prime Lending Rate is the rate of interest that commercial banks will charge their clients when issuing a loan (home loan or vehicle finance) Oct 2021 7.00%

Follow us: