It would seem the penny has finally dropped at Luthuli House on the futility of endless bailouts to South African Airways (SAA). When the chairperson of the ruling party. Minister Gwede Mantashe, finally goes public and says for everyone to hear that government coffers are not bottomless, it shows progress of some kind, although at a very late stage in the game.
SAA has not made a profit in the last decade. Without government bailouts it would have folded ages ago, but because it was a convenient vehicle through which certain groups looted government funds it was propped up and endless bailouts were provided.
It took very bold moves by Finance Minister Tito Mboweni – plainly telling everyone that money cannot be found to bail out SAA – for the entity to be finally placed under business rescue.
Even then, the likes of the general secretary of the ANC Ace Magashule still advocated for the continued artificial and costly bailouts to the airline in direct defiance of the facts that show that it is a bottomless pit with zero return for the average SA citizen.
As is typical of all the proponents of the sham that is “radical economic transformation”, those advancing rhetorical and sometimes emotional arguments for SAA to be retained as the country’s national airline have never provided a single suggestion on where the R2 billion per month must come from.
Mantashe made his pronouncement on SAA hot on the heels of his other out-of-the-blue announcement that a new power company to compete with state-owned power utility Eskom will be formed. Although Mantashe’s grand announcements are scant on detail, they are an indication that the misguided belief that state coffers can be raided at will with no consequences is coming to an end.
Even though Magashule and company continue to think like former Gauteng premier Nomvula Mokonyane that a collapsed rand can simply be “picked up from the floor” and given to the poor, it is significant that Mantashe can finally back up the finance minister by declaring this far and no further in throwing money at wasteful state-owned enterprises.
Magashule and his band of supporters represent a faction of the ANC which is so out of touch with the realities facing this country that they are able to say publicly that “SAA can be rescued as a national airline.”
Surely when the business rescue practitioners recommend the closing off of profitable routes like Johannesburg-Durban it should become clear to all that it is no longer simply about saving jobs and keeping profitable routes, but the crisis is so deep that even doing the right thing is expensive. What Magashule and his comrades need to tell South Africans is if the airline has not made a profit since 2011, what are they going to do to make sure it turns a profit?
Mantashe, in his new-found wisdom, has even intimated that it would be far more beneficial for the R2 billion a month being thrown at SAA to be diverted to take care of the public transport needs of ordinary South Africans.
And even the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) chime in with how anti-poor the business rescue strategy is by closing down the Johannesburg to Durban route.
Isn’t it amazing that politicians are only now thinking about the ordinary poor South African at the point at which nothing can be done? Sadly, even the EFF do not realise the plight of SAA is the political football stage. Right now it’s about saving the country every cent that can be saved.
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