South Africa’s national airline, South African Airways (SAA), is in billions of rands in debt, despite bailouts of over R16 billion. The last time the airline posted a profit was in 2011.
Most countries do not have a national airline. The number of countries that do, has shrunk. In Africa, the notable exception to this is only Ethiopian Airlines, and in in 2018 it increased its passenger numbers to become the largest carrier on the continent, overtaking SAA.
There does not appear to be any plausible reason for bailing out the airline, especially when funds are seemingly misused for this purpose. Agriculture and Rural Development are urgent matters in South Africa, especially with the level of unemployment and the horrific crime in rural areas and on farms. For funds to be taken out of the Gauteng Department of Agriculture and Rural Development in order to fund the bailout of SAA, is of grave concern and makes no sense.
Ina Cilliers MPL – DA Gauteng Spokesperson for Agriculture and Rural Development released the following statement:
The Democratic Alliance (DA) in Gauteng has learnt that critical funding is being taken away from the Gauteng Department of Agriculture and Rural Development in order to fund the bailout of SAA.
This information was revealed in a presentation from Parliament to the Gauteng Provincial Legislature on the Division of Revenue Amendment Bill.
The following conditional grants will be affected:
• Comprehensive Agricultural Support Programme Grant
• Ilima/Letsema Project
• Land Care Programme Grant: Poverty Relief and Infrastructure Grant
According to the presentation, reductions amounting to R1.3 billion have been made in support of the R10.5 billion required for SAA in terms of the Business Rescue Plan. Reductions in provincial conditional grants are made proportionately across provinces.
The Land Care Programme Grant: Poverty Relief and Infrastructure Grant are intended for a favourable and supportive agricultural services environment for the farming community, in particular subsistence and smallholder farmers within strategically identified grain, livestock and horticulture production areas.
The Ilima/Letsema Project provides assistance to vulnerable South African communities to achieve an increase in agricultural production within strategically identified grain, livestock, horticulture and aquaculture production areas.
The Comprehensive Agricultural Support Programme Grant provides effective support services, and promotes and facilitates agriculture development by targeting beneficiaries of land reform, restitution and redistribution, and other black producers who have acquired land through private means and are engaged in value-adding enterprises domestically, or involved in export.
These programmes will have their funding cut by the following amounts:
• Comprehensive Agricultural Support Programme Grant – a reduction of R911 000 from R82.6 million to R81.7 million for 2020/21;
• Ilima/Letsema Project Grant – a reduction of R306 000 from R25.7 million to R25.4 million for 2020/21;
• Land Care Programme Grant: Poverty Relief and Infrastructure Grant – a reduction of R57 000 from R4.8 million to R4.7 million for 2020/21;
It is worrying that subsistence farmers will now have to forego the opportunity to acquire piggery or poultry structures, plant crops and contributions to sustainable land care to the tune of nearly R1.4 million rand. This is a slap in the face of Gauteng farmers who are already struggling with climate change, food insecurity, crime and inequality.
These farmers will in all likelihood never be able to afford a plane ticket, yet they are helping to bail out SAA. It is clear that government is not thinking about how these bailouts will affect the lives of the poor and the vulnerable is South Africa- their lives are made a little harder so that the ANC can fund their vanity projects.
Farming contributes enormously to the GDP and there is a need to ensure that farmers are provided with the necessary funding they deserve. Choosing SAA over farming clearly means that the ANC government cares little about growing a sustainable economy.
I will be tabling further questions in the Gauteng Provincial Legislature to ascertain exactly how government will be helping farmers considering the reduced funding in conditional grants.