Leon Louw, executive director of the Free Market Foundation (FMF) is willing to wager SAA CEO Vuyani Jarana R100,000 that his three-year turnaround plan will not work and that by 31 March 2021 – his stated timeframe – SAA will not be in profit.
This excludes any privatisation or business rescue proceedings – both likely being now too late and ruled out by Jarana himself. The condition for this wager is, that when Jarana pays the charity, it will be from Jarana’s own money and not from public funds. Louw is offering Jarana personal “skin in the game”. Some may dismiss this as a PR stunt. It is not. It is a serious wager to illicit serious intent about a very serious abuse of public funds.
Risking his career and personal reputation by accepting SAA’s poisoned chalice takes courage. Will Jarana accept Louw’s wager? Is he a betting man?
Is Jarana serious about his turnaround plan? Does he really believe that SAA will make a profit in 2021? Is he so confident of this that he will condone diverting nearly R22 billion from other, far more essential causes of poverty, healthcare and education to fund subsidising the rich to fly? If so, then he has to accept Louw’s wager. To do otherwise shows doubt. It is easy to gamble taxpayers’ money; not so one’s own.
Yet again, the South African taxpayer is being asked to fund SAA by another colossal R22bn. Can we, should we trust Jarana that this money will not be squandered as before? The answer is no, and this is the reason why Louw is confident he will not be looking for R100,000 from his own pocket.
There have been eight CEOs and at least nine turnaround plans. Total government support for SAA now totals R46bn, while the last time it made a profit was 2012. Just ask the poor on every street corner if this has been a worthwhile investment.
Jarana has a very heavy responsibility to shoulder – and if he is serious about his task, he should publically accept this solemn wager. Not to do so, would show a lack of conviction and faith in his and SAA Board’s ability to fix SAA.
The FMF has long been vocal on the solution. It is clearly too late for turnaround plans, business rescue or privatisation – although attempting the latter two is better than persisting with the status quo. SAA is broke and unfixable. The only realistic option left is to close SAA down in a planned and predictable process so that all vested interests – customers, staff, unions, suppliers, creditors and more – know what will happen, how they will be affected and what plans are in place to optimise the process and minimise the pain. Let’s take the political fear out of closing down SAA.
Mr Jarana, will you accept this wager with the South African nation through Leon Louw? Do you believe that you can turn SAA around as you have stated in public and in Parliament?
You have a covenant with the South African people: taxpayers, the poor and the unemployed to do the right thing. Show them you mean business. Accept the wager. Or close down SAA.
No more bailouts. No more guarantees. No more patience. No more chances.
Time for courage and bold action.