SAA's turbulence could be terminal

It is priceless to listen to ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule speaking on behalf of the organisation’s national executive committee (NEC) about saving state-owned enterprises (SOEs).

That’s because it has become clear, as the state capture details unravel before us, that Magashule and other comrades in the ANC used the same SOEs to embed their friends and comrades … not only as payback for loyalty, but to ensure that the seemingly endless supply of taxpayers’ money could be diverted.

Much of the mess at the SABC is attributed to the ruinous tenure of a Magashule Free State deployee, Hlaudi Motsoeneng. It was no surprise when Magashule said last week he was opposed to proposed retrenchments at the insolvent corporation.

Magashule’s comments about SOEs came after the NEC discussed the fate of critical ones, including South African Airways.

Last week, newly appointed Finance Minister Tito Mboweni told a meeting of potential investors in New York he was in favour of closing down SAA and selling it off.

That comment provoked outrage from trade unions – who are concerned about job losses – and from ANC ranks.

The reality about SAA is that it is a prime example of “cadre deployment” and how a potentially viable business can be flown into the ground by those with agendas other than looking after government (and therefore, taxpayer) interests.

A prime example is former SAA board chair Dudu Miyeni, whose name crops up repeatedly in the tale of how SAA was gutted.

Should the airline continue? Do we even need a state airline? Those are questions the ANC must ask itself honestly.

Should SAA be cut to the core or should it be privatised and allowed to compete, or die, in the open market?

Whatever happens, SAA – and all other SOEs – should never again become piggy banks for politicians and their cronies.

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