Does South Africa need SAA?

By Mmusi Maimane

Over the past five years, under the control of Dudu Myeni, South African Airways has made a cumulative loss of R15.7 billion rand.

The reality is that SAA is insolvent and bankrupt. Its fortunes will not change if we continue down the current tried, tested and failed path.

It could be a profitable company but it will never be so while it is beleaguered with political interference and corruption.

SAA should be put into business rescue immediately. The board should only comprise of independent individuals with suitable aviation and business experience.

Once SAA is returned to a healthy financial position, it should be sold off.

This ought to include an employee share scheme, making a portion of shares available to SAA employees in order to empower them and give them a real stake in the company’s future successes.

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Unlike Eskom, SAA is not a strategic asset. South Africa does not need a national carrier any more than it needs a national supermarket or a national car wash enterprise . Yet national government is hell-bent on hanging onto it – for the opportunities it opens up for corruption.

For almost two decades, the airline has relied on government bailouts and guarantees for its survival. The cumulative total of bailouts since 1999 is R14.4 billion.

Government has already extended R19.1 billion in guarantees – meaning that nearly R35 billion of ordinary South Africans’ hard-earned money has been dedicated to keeping SAA in ‘business’.

By 2019, that number will have risen to around R50 billion – an amount which could have given a million South Africans a decent home for the first time in their lives – think how life changing that would have been.

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