Saturday, 12 June 2021
The South African Communist Party (SACP) has been the single most consistent and vocal political formation in defending the South African Airways (SAA) and state participation on behalf of the people as a whole in the aviation industry. The SACP did so publicly, as well as in the Alliance, and worked together with the South African Airways (SAA) workers and trade unions that shared the same objective without regard to their trade union federation affiliation.
The battle started with defending SAA against liquidation, against the call that the state no longer had to recapitalise or support SAA financially, and against the call that SAA was not a strategic public entity. After winning the battle against liquidation, our fight shifted to defending SAA against wholesale privatisation. Those who wanted SAA to be liquidated formed part of the agenda pushing its wholesale privatisation. The SACP fought against that on all platforms where the battle was taking place. We won the battle against wholesale privatisation of SAA.
But immediately after that victory there was a new attempt to undermine it. This attempt came from the same agenda that failed to achieve liquidation and wholesale privatisation of SAA. This time around that agenda was pushing landslide SAA privatisation with the aim of leaving the state with an insignificant stake which would mean something in sterile theory but nothing effectual in practice. The SACP fought against that as well.
At the end of the day the National Treasury took funds from other baseline programmes and priorities within the framework of the conservative notion of fiscal consolidation involving budget cuts, reducing support for the affected priorities, and refusing to make any provision for the allocation of new money to support SAA rescue, turnaround, and operations. It was the neoliberal austerity stance anchored in an agenda to uproot state participation in key industries such as the network sectors in favour of private sector dominance and profit competition that we were up against.
The neoliberal agenda was and is still supported by right-wing parliamentary parties and other opportunists elsewhere. Our efforts, working together with the SAA workers and the trade unions that were involved in defending SAA, secured continued state participation in SAA, albeit not 100%. This is not the end of the battle—the struggle continues.
The details surrounding the difference, that is the 51% stake now associated with control by a “strategic” equity partner remain unclear. While continuing the battle to deal with that on that score and considering other factors, the key task is to simultaneously defend state assets both at SAA and across the economy, with greater clarity on the developmental mandate of those assets.
Our strategic objective as the SACP is to use our just defence of state assets, combined with mobilisation for increased public investment, as the basis for an advance towards greater public control in the economy. Our immediate focus is on the strategic sectors of the economy, based upon greater clarity on the developmental mandate of state assets, good governance, sound administration, and war against corruption. Corruption contributed by no small measure to the destruction or weakening of public entities, as did wrong macroeconomic framework choices and a negative attitude against the adoption or adequate funding of industrial policy in general.
The SACP will resolutely continue to push for the adoption of a high impact, comprehensive industrial policy, and within this framework an aviation industrial strategy anchored in revitalising and growing developmental state participation in the sector. The aviation industrial strategy must articulate a whole-of-state approach. Accordingly, all state entities and agencies involved in the aviation industry will have to do their work in sync, in a systematic manner, in support of the growth of public ownership and in pursuit of the collective interests of the people, including employment, skills development for the aviation industry covering all professions and occupations, and aviation industry manufacturing.
State participation on behalf of the people as a whole in the economy should increasingly be supported by collective forms of ownership which the state must develop and support as part of our economic and broader social transformation agenda.
The central tenets of our strategy include, in favour of the workers, to protect employment and push new employment creation. The SACP therefore salutes all the workers and trade unions that defended labour interests at SAA and pledges its continuing support.