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Mineral resources minister Gwede Mantashe in Rustenburg. File image: ANA
ANC chairperson Gwede Mantashe has slammed South Africa Airways’ (SAA) attempts to continue operating as a state-owned entity, Sunday Times has reported.
Mantashe’s criticism comes after SAA’s joint business rescue practitioners (BRPs), Les Matuson and Siviwe Dongwana, announced on Thursday that most domestic routes across the country would be halted at the end of the month.
The decision was slammed by President Cyril Ramaphosa, who said there was no warning before the announcement was made.
All domestic routes, except between Johannesburg and Cape Town, will be affected. Domestic routes operated by Mango will not be affected by the changes.
11 regional and international routes will also be cancelled at the end of February. These include flights from Johannesburg to Abidjan via Accra, Entebbe, Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Livingston, Luanda, Munich, Ndola, and Sao Paulo.
Finance Minister Tito Mboweni earlier emphasised that any bailouts offered to SAA should avoid increasing the country’s budget deficit.
The airline has not been profitable since 2011, and its debt currently sits at around R12 billion, despite receiving billions in bailouts, the most recent of which was arranged by BRPs in January from the Development Bank of Southern Africa, to the tune of R3.5 billion.
ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule, as well as the party itself, are defiant that SAA remain a national airline that is state-owned, and would rather opt for a “substantial restructuring” than the airline being sold off to private companies.
Magashule, however, also said that restructuring the airline would not lead to retrenchments, something BRPs have since lamented will be inevitable if the airline’s business is to be strengthened.
According to Sunday Times, Mantashe’s criticism of the party’s decision to keep SAA a state-owned entity took place during an ANC birthday rally in the Eastern Cape on Saturday.
He also lashed out at the airline’s ‘elitism’, saying that it does not contribute to easing any transport woes experienced by the working class, and that continuing to pour billions into the failing business was “a travesty of justice”.
The backlash of route cuts and inevitable retrenchments are expected to ruffle even more feathers, most notably those of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) and the South African Cabin Crew Association (Sacca), who, like Ramaphosa, say the announcement was not discussed with them.
“Instead of consultation, labour was merely informed of this decision and its devastating consequences in respect of job losses. The BRPs even had the audacity to release the press statement announcing their decision, while we were still in the meeting discussing details,” said Numsa spokesperson Phakamile Hlubi-Majola.
(Compiled by Nica Schreuder. Background reporting by Chisom Jenniffer Okoye and Charles Cilliers.)
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