HELPING THIEVES FLY HIGH
Pictures and videos are doing the rounds on social media of some attention-seekers either washing their hands with expensive whisky or cutting up banknotes and throwing them away. Apparently, this shows admiring onlookers how rich the person is. (In the Western Cape at this point, it would perhaps be forgivable to wash with whisky since there is not much water.)
It is always easy to notice the clever fool who has recently come into money. Easy money, which must be flaunted for all to see. So the cash must shout out loud, thus buying attention for its grinning owner. Yet those who are really wealthy and know the value of money also know to be discreet about it.
But how many people have thought of SAA as the state equivalent of the attention-seeker who will make sure to be seen wasting money? The national carrier’s only purpose is to waste scarce resources, in addition to being a reliable conduit of unearned riches for the connected few.
In the 10 years since 2007, SAA has rung up a cumulative net loss of R18.1bn. Yes. R18,097,000,000. All wasted in the name of government owning an airline company. This figure excludes the latest financial reports for the year ended March 2018, but it includes the R5.67bn that SAA lost in the year ended March 2017. In that period SAA has only ever reported a net annual profit three times. That totalled R1.29bn (and is included in the total R18.1bn net loss).
The losses came out of total revenue of R267bn. Let’s recap: the worthies who have been tasked by government with managing the national carrier since financial 2007 went to work, and handled R267bn in the process, and lost it all. These are figures I have gleaned from the audited financial statements of the company in the period.
In addition, government has over the past 23 years given more than R55bn in cash to SAA. This is money that is always mistakenly called “recapitalisation” or “equity injection”. But it should be called exactly what it really is: waste.
Much like the clever fool trying to impress and gain the admiration of spectators by publicly wasting the little he has, government justifies this huge waste on SAA and other state-owned companies by saying the flag carrier is necessary to market the country.
Hollow pretext that doesn’t fly
Apparently, keeping this waste of resources airborne also helps facilitate travel and thus facilitates trade. Except nothing could be further from the truth. The privately owned and commercially operated British Airways is doing a much better job of bringing tourists and business people into SA.
The truth about keeping SAA in business is simply that it presents a great opportunity for well-connected thieves to get rich at the expense of the rest of the people. Of course it also keeps a few thousand other comrades employed, in exchange for their votes.
This wastage diverts resources from government’s mission to provide infrastructure to create a conducive environment for real businesses to invest. The most important task of government — to provide muchneeded resources for the vulnerable in society — is also sacrificed in favour of subsidising air travel for the rich.
This also takes care of freebies for government officials and politicians.
Thus they can, with full stomachs, tell the parents of little Michael Komape, who died after drowning in a pit latrine in Limpopo, that there is no money to build such basic infrastructure as toilets for his school.
And then, before anyone can respond, off they speed on their German wheels, paid for by what has not yet been stolen at SAA.
The national carrier’s only purpose is to waste resources, in addition to being a conduit of riches