Hands off SAA ownership: Unions hit back at critics of R10.5bn lifeline

NUMSA and SACCA point out that there are countless example of countries, China included, where the state owns some of the key enterprises in the economy.
NUMSA and SACCA point out that there are countless example of countries, China included, where the state owns some of the key enterprises in the economy.
  • The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa and the South Africa Cabin Crew Association react to the R10.5 billion for SAA to say there is nothing wrong with having state-owned companies.
  • Earlier the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse called the R10.5 billion allocation to SAA "outrageous" and called for a boycott of the airline.
  • NUMSA and SACCA say there are countless example of countries, China included, where the state owns some of the key enterprises in the economy. 


There is nothing wrong with an enterprise being state-owned both at ideological and commercial level, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) and the South Africa Cabin Crew Association (SACCA) said in reaction to South African Airways (SAA) receiving a further R10.5 billion from last week's Medium Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS).

The two unions welcome the allocation of the funding, which will enable the implementation of SAA's rescue plan, including payment of severance packages to employees.

Earlier Wayne Duvenage, CEO of civil action organisation, Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA), commented that the R10.5 billion allocation to SAA is "outrageous", especially after all the input and caution provided by OUTA on this matter.

"In these desperate times, funds are cut from other budgets and allocated to a non-core SOE, when this money could be put to better use in alleviating the plight of other urgent and more pressing needs this country has," said Wayne Duvenage.

"OUTA believes the power must now shift to civil society, to send a powerful message to the state that bail-outs of non-core SOEs require the public's attention. For this reason, OUTA calls for and will actively drive a public and business boycott of SAA going forward."

The DA's finance spokesperson Geordin Hill-Lewis called the R10.5 billion for SAA "indefensible, immoral" as the funds would have to be sourced by cutting the budgets of other departments, including from police and higher education.  

NUMSA and SACCA, on the other hand, state that, whilst they appreciate that OUTA's is an ideological position against the participation of the state in the economy, there are countless example of countries, China included, where the state owns some of the key enterprises in the economy. 

"There are 124 Chinese companies listed on the Fortune Global 500 and the majority of these are Chinese state-owned entities. We have seen how swiftly the Chinese government responded to the Covid-19 pandemic through accelerated investment in public infrastructure, by building hospitals in days, largely using its state-owned companies to mobilise and respond to the crisis. This is clearly a validation that there is nothing wrong in being state owned," states NUMSA and SACCA. "What matters is how government as a shareholder manages the asset."

The National Transport Movement (NTM) reacted to the R10.5 billion allocation by saying that it is confident the much needed capital injection in SAA will ensure the airline is restructured and return to profitability in a short turnaround.

"With an accountable and efficient board of directors, with aviation and financial expertise, SAA will be a force to be reckoned again. It is proper for Labour as collective to give a necessary space for the new management and the NewCo to recover from the plethora of corruption that has ravaged the former SAA," said NTM president Mashudu Raphetha. "Gone are those days when labour is regarded as enemy but crucial stakeholder".

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