Ekurhuleni Mayor Mzwandile Masina believes that the privatisation of South Africa’s state-owned enterprises is not pro-poor and, instead, that it seeks to empower only the elite.
Masina said that because these companies are “public assets” they should be “protected”.
Masina belongs to a school of thought within thegoverning party that is wary of a pro-capital stance by the government under President Cyril Ramaphosa.
“For many years in society, we have been anchored on a pro-poor philosophy that rejects the notion of privatisation,” he said.
Speaking on Saturday at a gathering hosted by the ward 16 branch of the ANC at Emperors Palace, where hundreds of members of the governing party were present, he reiterated that privatisation would mean that the government was selling its assets and this could result in the country suffering dire financial and economic consequences.
“A country is like a company, you cannot have a country that is so indebted that it has no assets because, in the long run, it will not have the ability to go and borrow money to build on infrastructure,” he said.
The country should rather do comparative studies with countries that were previously in the same position as South Africa.
“We speak of privatisation in a favourable light as if it is the only alternative to the significant challenges that our country is facing,” he said.
The Ekurhuleni chairperson highlighted that this would be possible in the case of SAA which is under debt rescue.
He said that the decline of the national carrier should have been detected “a long time ago”.
In December Ramaphosa took the decision to put the cash-strapped national airline under voluntary business rescue.
The process is still under way.
State power generator Eskom has also been under the spotlight for its financial woes.
The utility’s operating costs are too high and it can’t pay its debt.
It owes more than R400 billion and does not generate enough cash to pay even the interest on its debt.
A suggestion to use workers’ pension funds to foot Eskom’s bill is on the table but this will depend on an agreement that is reached between the ANC and trade unions.
Masina is in favour of this idea and believes those who say they cannot trust the state are unreasonable.
“What kind of logic is this? How can the state, which has the interest of the people, [and which was] elected by the people for the people, not be trusted?
“There is no substantive evidence to show us why we cannot use our resources to save Eskom rather than selling it,” Masina said.
He said it was not the first time a suggestion had been made to sell Eskom.
“The Guptas are just the tip of the iceberg. There are people who have been trying to sell Eskom for years at a higher price and nothing happened to them,” he said.
Masina did not give details.