It is time to ground SAA’s funding

My grandpa always said never get between a fool and his mistake – it would sacrifice the only good that might come from the situation. Yet, as South Africa swims in a sea of poverty, the politicians have foolishly rushed to “stabilise” the turbulence SAA flew itself into.

The continuous bailouts for the failed national carrier are akin to a foolish man who insists on keeping the family’s cash sapping old jalopy just because of its sentimental value.

Perhaps the most critical task of any finance minister is the allocation of capital. Tito Mboweni and the powers that be at the Treasury and Public Enterprises Department unashamedly continue on their foolish path to cut expenditure in critical areas to feed SAA.

Make no mistake, there was a time when SAA was the pride of the nation. It was the calling card for the country. It enveloped all those South African values we aspire towards – punctuality, efficiency and high quality. The company has not lived up to expectations and is a drain on the fiscus, any extra rand spent on the airline borders on anarchy and dereliction of duty by this administration.

The so-called business has not made a profit since 2011.

Don’t be fooled – SAA is no Eskom. Its wings need to be clipped and soon.  Mboweni had a straight face when he allocated another R10.5-billion, on top of a previous R16.4-billion injection.

This is the same administration that presides over schools with pit toilets and no running water. Mboweni’s budget can be summed up in two words: sense and nonsense. It makes sense to rein in the spiraling national debt – borrowing R2.1-billion a day is not normal.

It makes sense to freeze wage increases for three years. Many things in Mboweni’s budget made sense. However, it is foolish to keep throwing good money at an airline when there is no credible business case for it.

Politicians are not skilled at investments; they are no better skilled at selecting which investments to protect and which ones to walk away from. The only way to salvage SAA is to introduce protectionist policies to protect its domestic market share. This can be achieved by prohibiting international brands from flying around the country and give that market solely to SAA. But this we know the government will not do. Stop giving our money away then.

Grandpa was right, encouraging foolishness is not a good idea.

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