South African Airways (SAA) is due to get yet another R10-billion bailout through the sale of government’s multi-billion rand stake in Telkom.
The Democratic Alliance MP Alf Lees dropped the bombshell in the National Assembly during question time with Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa on Wednesday when he presented a cabinet memorandum leaked to him in his capacity as a member of parliament’s finance portfolio committee.
The secret memo which Lees presented‚ citing his parliamentary privilege that prevented him from possible prosecution in this case‚ indicates that cabinet is due to approve a request from Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba to introduce in parliament a special appropriation bill proposing the appropriation of R10-billion to SAA in the current 2017/18 financial year.
The draft bill would allow for the release of R7-billion to be transferred to SAA in tranches and for Gigaba to impose certain conditions.
A government guarantee of R2.2 billion was already transferred to SAA on June 30 this year.
The sale of the government shares in Telkom is valued at R14 billion‚ or 40% of the telecoms parastatal.
“This was handed to the executive yesterday and indicated that finance minister Malusi Gigaba is planning to give SAA a R10-billion bailout primarily by selling government shares in Telkom. Do you support the sale of a good asset to save a bad asset and has cabinet approved this move?” asked Lees.
Shortly thereafter‚ Ramaphosa and Gigaba were seen exchanging notes in the National Assembly chamber before the finance minister rushed out of the house.
EFF MP Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said it was startling that government was sacrificing its shareholding in Telkom for a badly run SAA.
“How do you explain selling your stake in Telkom‚ to go and reward Dudu Myeni in SAA (chairperson of SAA board)….selling it to go and save an incompetent‚ corrupt board in SAA?”
”This would not be the first time that government gave up its shareholding in a performing company to bail out a struggling SOE,” said Ramaphosa.
It gave up its 15% ownership of cellphone market leader Vodacom for R15-billion to bail out Eskom in 2015.
It was also revealed that SAA owns only nine aircraft out of about 60 aeroplanes it operates. It leases the rest at a cost of R3.5-billion a year.
Myeni and her team claimed the former SAA chief executive‚ Coleman Andrews‚ who was paid a R200-million golden handshake 16 years ago‚ was still haunting the airline to this day.