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ANC allies put their foot down: ‘Business rescue practitioners do not own SAA; we do’

2020-02-17 00:00

The tripartite alliance is resolute in its decision to back SAA and says it will intervene to protect its asset if need be

The ANC and its tripartite alliance regrouped last week and reaffirmed their position on government retaining control of SAA.

This flew in the face of strong sentiments by ANC chairperson and Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe that SAA should either “make a profit or close [down]”.

ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule said government was still the main shareholder at SAA and would step in should it be necessary, as the general consensus was to save the ailing airliner.

“It is the position of the alliance and we have not shifted from the position that we will do all in our power to retain the SAA as a state-owned enterprise (SOE). Even though [the SAA] is under business rescue, the main shareholder is still government and government does have a say. That is why [President Cyril Ramaphosa] has reiterated that SAA will be profitable and return to its former glory,” said Magashule.

He was speaking after the alliance secretariat met last week amid uncertainty over the future of SAA, given the business rescue practitioners’ decision to cancel all of the ailing airline’s domestic routes, bar the Johannesburg/Cape Town route.

Following Ramaphosa’s state of the nation address on February 13, ANC treasurer-general Paul Mashatile on Friday reiterated similar sentiments, saying that government was ready and waiting on the sidelines should the business rescue practitioners be seen to be taking decisions not in the best interests of SAA. 

“Government remains the sole shareholder of SAA. If you run a company [of which] I am a shareholder, the day I don’t like what you do I will come in. It’s that simple.

“The business rescue practitioners do not own SAA; we do. The day they do something we think is not in line with what we want, we will intervene because we appointed them. So there is no conflict.

“What the president was saying was that we don’t think that [the business rescue practitioners] are going the right way. They will come and argue that they think this route is not profitable and so on, but we are not as narrow as that.

“We are looking at the bigger picture. Remember that areas such as KwaZulu-Natal and even the Eastern Cape are critical for driving economic growth, so you don’t want to close them out of the country.

“The understanding of government is that, yes, we want a viable airline but be careful which routes you close.

“Business rescue doesn’t mean that you keep quiet as shareholder, [practitioners] report to you. 

“Maybe people grew scared because it was said publicly, but it is the right of the shareholder to protect their asset,” said Mashatile.

The secretariat meeting constituted secretaries-general and their deputies from the ANC, Cosatu and the SA Communist Party, who, according to Magashule, resolved that the alliance partners would back Ramaphosa’s disapproval of the business rescue practitioners’ discontinuance of some of SAA’s routes.

Magashule added that going forward there would not be a repeat of a scenario where leaders speak with a forked tongue and give differing views on SOEs.

This after Mantashe last week called for the beleaguered carrier to be shut down if it cannot sustain itself.

Read: Mantashe to SAA: Make profit or close

“We have also engaged as the national working committee and our position hasn’t changed.

“Mantashe, who is part of the national executive committee, was also present and he has accepted the standing that the aim is to save and retain SAA as an SOE.

“Sometimes you may say something and what you say may be taken out of context, and he [Mantashe] will address this and explain what he actually meant,” said Magashule.

Beyond reaching common ground on how to approach the restructuring of SAA, the secretariat resolved to crack down on the persistent “culture of impunity and price inflation” that is entrenched in entities that do business with government, in particular SOEs.

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March 29 2020