Minister of Public Enterprises, Pravin Gordhan, has landed himself in hot water with the Democratic Alliance (DA) after he failed to satisfactorily respond to questions relating to the R10.5 billion bailout handed to embattled state airline South African Airways (SAA) – as well as fellow battlers SA Express. The DA also requested information about the status of the failing airlines’ business rescue efforts.
The opposition party claim that Gordhan has failed to respond to their urgent queries for six months in certain instances, and say that his failure to make good on a commitment to provide information within a week of their latest request is a slap in the face of Parliamentary procedure.
DA seething after Gordhan’s failure to provide information on SAA
Alf Lees, the DA’s Member of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) – which is chaired by Mkhuleku Hlengwa – said on Wednesday 18 November that Gordhan’s “disdain” over the commitment is worthy of reproach from the committee.
He said that the party has written to Hlengwa to request that he gives Gordhan 48-hours notice to submit detailed replies to all questions from Committee members.
“It cannot be acceptable that Minister Gordhan, a member of the Executive, can treat Parliament with such disdain and simply ignore his own commitment made to SCOPA and not to provide the detailed information requested,” he said.
“During the Committee meeting on Wednesday, 4 November 2020, the Minister committed to provide answers to all questions regarding South African Airways (SAA) and SA Express within a week of the meeting.”
DA submit urgent letter to committee
In the letter, the DA asked Hlengwa to take action against the minister to compel him to provide answers to their questions.
“It is now the 18th of November 2020 a full two weeks since the SCOPA meeting on the 4th of November 2020 and I have received no replies from Honourable Gordhan and I assume that the SCOPA staff have also not received any replies?”
Failing the submission of this information, they threatened to lodge a complaint with the House Chairperson in Parliament.
Bailout under immense scrutiny
Lees said that the bailout handed over to SAA – a financing relief package that brings the total amount of state funding for the airline in 2020 to around R27 billion – demands rigorous scrutiny and clarification.
“There is widespread condemnation of the ANC/Pravin Gordhan R10.5 billion taxpayer bailout for SAA which remains grounded and unlikely to even start flights before January 2021,” he said.
“Gordhan admitted to Parliament on 11 November 2020, that it was likely that R10.5 billion would not be enough and that further funding of R3.5 billion for SAA would be required from taxpayers – making it a total of R14 billion without the R5 billion in losses over the next three years as contained in the business rescue plan.”
He pointed out that the R14 billion in bailout funding excludes the previous R16.4 billion budgeted for in the 2020/21 budget.
“As billions in taxpayers money is being pumped into the bankrupt ANC vanity project, at the expense of housing projects, policing and education – the least Minister Gordhan can do is to respect Parliament’s oversight and respond to questions.”