Crash and burn: The end of SAA?
When Finance Minister Tito Mboweni took over at National Treasury last year he didn’t beat around the bush: Why do we need South African Airways? It burns through billions of rands in cash annually, it is inefficient and its financials are a mess, he said. Rather spend money on public transport that really benefits the working class.
This week the carrier’s future was thrust front and centre into the national debate when it was announced that the airline will embark on restructuring which could see up to a fifth of its staff losing their jobs. SAA, as proud a national asset as it is, has been a drain on the fiscus for years and years. It’s been the poster-child of what happens when a state-owned company is subjected to mismanagement and capture, and the place to park cronies and acolytes in high-flying jobs.
Will SAA survive? Probably, in the short term. But it might very well be wound down. In this week’s Friday Briefing Ferial Haffajee asks why it should be workers that bear the brunt of a failing enterprise, and I argue this might be a precursor to an even trickier unbundling: Eskom. Traveller24 unpacks the practical implications of cancelled flights for concerned readers.
Pieter du Toit
Pieter du Toit
The South African government is running out of money and time. If it doesn’t embark on extensive reorganisation and rationalisation of the national finances the country will pay a heavy price. And the brinkmanship between it and unions at SAA might be a curtain-raiser to the main event: knocking Eskom into shape.
I’m with Finance Minister Tito Mboweni that South African Airways is a vanity that our near-bankrupt country can’t afford. But if the government has decided that our national self-esteem is somehow tied up with having an airline, then why are workers the only ones going to make the sacrifice to keep it flying?
Passengers are being advised that SAA has cancelled nearly all its domestic, regional and international flights scheduled for Friday, 15 November and Saturday, 16 November 2019. In this boat? Stay calm. We have all the info you need.
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