If SAA, which before 1991 had a monopoly on domestic routes, acquires aircraft that are more fuel-efficient and gets all its other ducks in a row, it will nevertheless continue to run at a huge loss due to intense competition from other airlines.

SAA provides almost no benefit to the poor, who would benefit far more if the government closed SAA down and used its savings to subsidise travel by bus and train. The airline also provides perilously little benefit to the rest of our citizens, who have other airlines to choose from. It would almost certainly be cheaper to pay employees to sit at home doing nothing than it would to resurrect SAA, which ran at a loss of more than R5bn a year in 2017, 2018 and 2019. In a post-Covid-19 environment SAA’s losses could be significantly higher.

Unfortunately, allowing SAA to fail would be tantamount to saying the ANC’s socialist policies — its good intentions — have failed and should in future play second fiddle to sound business practices. This would be a huge victory for diehard capitalists, as well as for those who stubbornly maintain that the apartheid-era government did not have the capacity to provide jobs and homes to all of its citizens.

Consequently, the ANC is likely to move heaven and earth in what is for all intents and purposes an ideological battle and an attempt to avoid admitting defeat.

All that we, the citizens of this beautiful country, can do is let the government know that not all of us were born yesterday; that an attempt to pull the wool over our eyes and fob us off with a lecture on the importance of saving jobs is therefore doomed to failure. The government must learn to swallow its pride.

Terence Grant
Cape Town

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