SAA's soon to be released 20-year turnaround strategy represents the airline's last chance to stabilise its operations after nearly two decades of wasting public funds. If this fails, the only viable option left will be to privatise.
Yesterday, acting CEO of SAA, Nico Bezuidenhout, briefed the portfolio committee on public enterprises on the state of the national carrier and its upcoming 20-year turnaround strategy.
Mr Bezuidenhout was quite frank about the failures of SAA and admitted that the portfolio committee had been led up the garden path over the years with regard to turnaround plans that never materialised. He explained that the latest plan would focus on a "holistic" strategy that would seek to establish a "sustainable" business.
Given that nine similar plans have been put forward over the last 13 years, at a cost of billions to the public purse, this latest salvage attempt has to be the airline's last.
SAA has recorded losses over the past decade amounting to R14.7 billion. Last month's reported R550 million bank loan to cover fuel and other short-term costs has become an all too familiar story.
Enough is enough. The airline's executives should not find refuge in the broad timescale of the latest addition to its plan archive. It should not take 20 years to turn SAA around. Whilst we acknowledge that miracles cannot be performed overnight, marked improvements should be visible in the medium term.
Acting Chair Dudu Myeni's appeal to the committee yesterday for members to "have faith" in the national carrier is therefore completely misplaced. Airlines do not run on faith; nor should they be bankrolled by a seemingly endless supply of public funds with nothing but broken promises to show for it. Ms Myeni's plea is an insult to all South Africans who have seen no return on the billions of Rands already invested in the airline.
The equation is simple. Turn SAA around in the next few years, or concede to privatise.
Natasha Michael, Shadow Minister of Public Enterprises