The debate about the future of South Africa’s troubled national carrier South African Airways (SAA) went a notch higher on Sunday after a government official took to social media to ask his followers on the next possible course of action regarding the airline.
South Africa’s Finance minister Tito Mboweni posed a question on Twitter about the airline asking: “Ok. What should we do on SAA?”
Several South Africans flooded the minister’s timeline with a range of answers with some positively responding to the question while others were negative and highly critical.
Some of those who responded said the sensible options for the government were to sell the airline, privatize it or liquidate it.
Place into immediate liquidation. Enter into more attractive “partnership” deals with Emirates, Ethiopian airlines and others (charge more for landing/route rights). Sell profitable units to private sector.
— Magda Wierzycka (@Magda_Wierzycka) November 23, 2020
One thing you and I can agree on minister, the state has failed to manage SAA. Let the private sector try.
— Errol (@errolbsk) November 22, 2020
Others, however, were of the view that the horse had bolted from the stable a long time ago and the minister’s question was meaningless.
Honourable minister, this question should gave been asked and deliberated upon before the R10 billion was allocated for SAA in your budget recently. Right now the topic is academic n will not take the country any where
— Jennifer Joni (@jenjoni1029) November 22, 2020
Mboweni then rubbed South Africans the wrong way even more after he openly questioned whether the country needed a national airline at all.
Ok. Do we need a National Airline? Maybe that’s the question? Is it?
— Tito Mboweni (@tito_mboweni) November 22, 2020
Some of the responses to the minister, however, appeared to have riled him as they questioned his competence and criticized the government prompting him to shoot back at his detractors who chided him for asking such questions.
“People who are afraid of public debate must stay away from politics. Why should a question on SAA get so many people hot under the collar? Come on. Grow up!! This is not a Stalinist society. People must be free to express their democratic views. Me too!” Mboweni wrote.
SAA has not made a profit since 2011, surviving instead on more than 20 billion rand in bailouts over the last three years.
One of the country’s state-owned enterprises, SAA also faces allegations of corruption and mismanagement, filed for liquidation and bankruptcy protection in December last year.
As late as September, SAA suspended all its operations as it struggled to raise a bailout of more than 10 billion rands ($591 million).