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Mixed messages bad for SAA

Image: SAA

We are not certain, but it could have been radio presenter Bruce Whitfield who joked last week: "South Africa does not have a policy certainty problem, our government consistently makes very bold policies and then changes them."

It would really be funny were this not a grave matter. As a newspaper, we are for dialogue and political debates, but if the country is to work, decisions must be taken and they must be binding.

Take for instance the controversy surrounding the future of South African Airways.

After years of dithering while the airline's financial crisis deepened to levels where its future seemed in doubt, President Cyril Ramaphosa's government took a painful but bold decision to put the airline under business rescue.

This meant an admission on the part of the SAA board and government, as the airline's shareholder, that they had failed to save the business and were now giving the business rescue team the mandate to do whatever possible to save the airline from going under.

There were those within the government and the ANC who were opposed to this, but were told by the president and senior party officials that there was no alternative.

Yet when the business rescuers announced last week that one of the drastic measures that have to be taken is to shut down most of SAA's domestic routes, the president, his government and party were up in arms This begs the question, what do they understand to be the role and powers of the rescue team they appointed?

Then at the weekend, the ANC's national chairperson, and minister of mineral resources and energy, Gwede Mantashe, publicly called for SAA to be sold if it continues to bleed money.

Now this flies in the face of statements by Ramaphosa and other senior ANC leaders who insist that the airline will not be closed down.

These mixed messages do very little to restore public confidence in the airline as it is difficult to tell whose word should be taken seriously in the government.

Uncertain as to the future of the airline, customers will vote with their feet by shunning SAA and going to other airlines. That would mean certain death for the airline and a loss of thousands of jobs.

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