The South African Communist Party has come to the defence of President Cyril Ramaphosa and Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan regarding developments at South African Airways.
The president last week said his government did not agree with the business rescue practitioners’ decision to cancel certain domestic and international routes.
Gordhan has said government would propose that the flight cancellations be reviewed, arguing they would jeopardise the airline’s future.
SAA was placed under business rescue in December in a bid to help restructure the ailing state-owned entity.
While the business rescue practitioners have defended their decision, saying it was in the best interests of the airline, the governing party’s alliance partners disagreed, saying the practitioners were putting their own interests first.
“They have business – private business motives and interests – that’s why the first thing they do is decapitate the institution, so they can share it among themselves,” said SACP first deputy general secretary Solly Mapaila.
‘Stealing our airline’
The SACP has previously been vocal in calls for state capture to be investigated, warning of “parasitic networks”, in the form of the Gupta family, which it claimed had taken control of the country’s government during former president Jacob Zuma’s tenure.
Mapaila said the SAA saga was yet another form of capture.
“This is a policy state capture that’s happening, and it’s happening almost legally, and numbs us to silence,” remarked the SACP leader.
Mapaila, who acknowledged the SACP had never been in favour of SAA being placed under business rescue, said the party had accepted that the process was unfolding and said that Ramaphosa was well within his rights to publicly disagree with the direction the process was steering the airline.
“Of course, we agree with the president… it’s not fiddling or interference, perfectly normal, it should be like that,” he said.
He insisted that SAA had been placed under a voluntary process, while government remained the main creditor.
“Any rescue process – whatever the outcomes – there must be sufficient consultation with the creditors and, in this regard, government is the main creditor because it’s the guarantor of all those loans at SAA,” said Mapaila.
Cosatu agrees with SACP on SAA
Trade union federation Cosatu is in full agreement with the SACP, saying it too agrees with Ramaphosa’s views and knows the business rescue process will kill the airline.
“Of course, we agree with the president. The problem is this is exactly what we were expecting,” said Cosatu spokesperson Sizwe Pamla.
He complained about the business rescue practitioners’ decision-making process, insisting numerous times that the idea to place SAA under business rescue was incorrect.
Pamla also criticised government for agreeing to the idea last year.
“The fact that they embraced it, is that some people demanded it, organisations like Solidarity demanded it… the idea was wrong in the first place,” said Pamla.
“[They] shouldn’t have taken proposals which had not been studied and understood,” he continued.
He raised concern that a similar idea was suggested as a solution for the strained power producer Eskom, saying Cosatu had already warned against such a move.
“Government seems to have taken a trial-and-error approach when it comes to challenges at SOEs,” he noted.
Pamla said the decisions on solutions should always be established with an end goal in mind.