It’s no surprise that a department overseen by Fikile “Mr Fix” Mbalula provokes a row with the most powerful country in the world – and also sabotages a return to business of South African Airways (SAA).
Yet, the department of transport, in its arrogance, has unilaterally decided that its reinterpretation of a reciprocal agreement on air services between South Africa and the United States is final.
They have denied US carrier Delta the right to land in Cape Town as an extension of its JohannesburgAtlanta service.
The Americans, who have been trying for months, apparently, to have a logical discussion with Mbaks’s mandarins in Pretoria, appear to have given up.
But now they are applying the same reinterpretation logic and will prevent SAA – about to be relaunched as a public-private partnership – from operating, via agreements with other carriers, beyond its existing direct US entry points.
This has the potential to cost SAA significant revenue, even before it actually starts flying again.
It goes without saying that it’s not a good idea to pick a fight with the Americans – on anything.
But it also looks, to the consortium bidding for SAA, that having the government as a partner is not great either.
Now read: Turbulent times already for new SAA