Editorial: Get rid of the darn costly SAA toy

State-owned airline SAA in deep trouble
State-owned airline SAA in deep trouble

An honest question that South Africa needs to answer is: Can the country afford to continue throwing money into the deep hole that is SAA?

The honest answer is that the country cannot afford such a luxury while we are faced with high unemployment, a stagnant economy and grinding poverty.

The national carrier is a nice-to-have institution that nurses the egos of political bigwigs who want to say they own an airline, regardless of whether or not it makes money.

Turnaround strategies have been written, chief executives have been churned out, but the results have always gone from bad to worse.

Read: ‘Mother of all strikes’ on the cards at SAA

This week SAA announced that it intended to reduce its workforce by more than 900 workers.

This did not sit well with employees, who downed tools and forced the grounding of domestic, regional and international flights, forcing ticketholders to either seek alternative flights or cancel their planned trips.

Read: Loss-making SAA eyes cutting 900 jobs in restructuring

The airline estimated that the cancellations would result in tens of millions of rands in lost revenue, which will add to the already R20 billion owed to creditors.

Government has clearly demonstrated that it either cannot take leadership in turning the SAA around or is incapable of letting professionals get on with the job.

However, this is the time when the country has to make a bold statement and say enough is enough.

Taxpayers cannot afford to keep a service only enjoyed by a few while the rest of the population goes hungry.

The SAA is a vanity possession that serves no strategic purpose in the state’s developmental agenda.

As has been said numerous times to the state, sell the darn thing or bring in a capable equity partner.

The airline can still carry the name and proudly fly our flag on its livery.

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July 2020

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