Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan says the acquisition of a strategic partner for South African Airways (SAA) could be concluded in the next four to six weeks.
Gordhan said this when he briefed the media after tabling the department’s budget vote during a mini plenary of the National Assembly on Tuesday.
He said this as the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has pronounced that SAA and the global aviation industry have seen the demand for air travel plummeting by 65.9% in 2020 compared to 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As you know, SAA is now out of business rescue as of the 30th of April. There is an interim board in place and an interim top management. Many weeks of work have gone into looking at the issue of a strategic equity partner. There has been extremely good progress in this regard and hopefully in the very near future, announcements would have been made in this particular respect,” he said.
Addressing Members of Parliament (MPs) earlier in the day, Gordhan said on the business rescue process: “I want to convey sincere regret and solidarity with the employees of SAA, their unions. This has been a difficult process. But we are not too far from achieving government’s objectives: a viable airline, not dependent on the fiscus, with the agility to cope with uncertain times. Our success will be measured in how efficiently and how quickly we get the job done.”
Meanwhile, Gordhan said a Just Energy Transition Office has been established to manage the socio-economic impact of the transition from coal to renewable energy sources. He said Eskom’s social compact was signed in December 2020 to address its operational and financial challenges.
“The Medupi power station is almost complete, with the last unit ready for commissioning by July 2021.”
Gordhan said the Kusile power station’s units 2 and 3 have been brought into commercial operation in October 2020 and March 2021 respectively.
He added that power utility has been recovering money that was stolen by companies doing business with it.
The management of Eskom’s debt, he said, is one of the key priorities to return the entity onto a sustainable path.
The entity is continuing to implement its cost reduction initiative, with a saving of R13.5 billion achieved in the 2021 financial year.
“Most notably was the R83 billion reduction in debt in the 2021 financial year, from R484 billion to R401 billion due to the repayment of the maturing debt and changes in the exchange rate.
The Minister also spoke about the need to resolve municipal debt.
“Eskom’s consumer debt continues to escalate which currently stands at R45.1 billion – of which 78% is owed by municipalities, 17% by Soweto. The Inter-Ministerial Committee headed by the Deputy President is leading the effort in resolving the municipal debt challenges,” he said.