ANC chairperson and energy minister Gwede Mantashe has urged the government to sell South African Airways (SAA), stating that the airline does not cater to the working class.
According to a report by The Sunday Times, Mantashe’s views are in conflict with the ANC, with the minister arguing that if it is unable to make money, SAA must be sold to private buyers.
“If it is always asking for money and it does not fly the working class but only elites… [subsidising them] is not subsidising the working class,” Mantashe said.
“The only ones who are ferrying the working class are the buses and the taxis. If we were giving this money to the buses, taxis, and trains, you would have a case.”
Mantashe added that if SAA was to survive it must make money, and if it can’t it must be closed down.
“If there is a businessperson who can run it, they must take it,” he said.
“We can’t throw R2 billion every month to SAA, we have given R3.2 billion in December but still they can’t survive. It’s a travesty of justice.”
Division over flight cuts
The business rescue practitioners (BRPs) of SAA announced a number of flight cuts last week, which effectively reduced the airline’s domestic operations to one route.
A number of jobs will have to be cut as part of the airline restructuring, the BRPs added.
All customers booked on any cancelled international and regional routes will receive a full refund, the BRPs said.
“Customers booked on cancelled domestic flights will be re-accommodated on services operated by Mango.”
SAA does not intend to make any further significant network changes, and the BRPs said that passengers and travel agents can, therefore, feel confident about booking future travel with South African Airways.
President Ramaphosa has a different view to Mantashe, stating that SAA is an “economic enabler” and should not have cut flights to improve its profitability.
“We would like SAA to remain a robust and successful airline,” Ramaphosa said.
“That is why we took the decision not to close SAA, but to ensure SAA is revamped, is resuscitated, and is operating profitably.”
Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan said the flight cuts may jeopardize SAA’s long-term future, and the government will propose the decision be reviewed.