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Ramaphosa won't say if R10bn SAA bailout to be financed by Telkom share sale

The Democratic Alliance’s (DA) Alf Lees put the question to Cyril Ramaphosa in the National Assembly on Wednesday afternoon.

FILE: Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: GCIS

CAPE TOWN - Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa has refused to say in Parliament whether Cabinet has approved a R10 billion bailout for the South African Airways (SAA) to be financed by the sale of Telkom shares.

The Democratic Alliance (DA)'s Alf Lees put the question to Ramaphosa in the National Assembly on Wednesday afternoon.

Lees asked: “I have in my possession a document marked secret… this was handed to the executive yesterday and indicates that the Minister of Finance Malusi Gigaba is planning to give SAA a R10 billion bailout, primarily by the government selling shares in Telkom… do you support the sale of a good asset to save a bad asset, and has Cabinet approved this?”

Ramaphosa first responded by saying Lees could be prosecuted for having a document meant for the executive marked secret, prompting DA chief whip John Steenhuisen to intervene.

Ramaphosa denied threatening Lees.

“The issue that Honourable lees is talking about… we continue to discuss state-owned enterprises and assets that are owned by the government…”

Ramaphosa says the proposal may or may not come before Parliament and that, if it does, it will be fully addressed then.

‘MASSIVE FRAUD AT SAA’

Earlier in Parliament Deputy Finance Minister Sfiso Buthelezi said there is “massive collusion and fraud” at the SAA.

Buthelezi was answering questions at a meeting of Parliament's watchdog over government spending, the standing committee on public accounts.

SAA board chairperson Dudu Myeni and top executives faced questions on the airline's viability and governance, as well as irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure during the past financial year.

Buthelezi said there’s no doubt that SAA is an airline with “serious problems” – some of them legacy issues, some due to pure mismanagement, some down to criminality.

“Let me say without fear of contradicting myself there’s massive collusion and fraud at SAA – I think we are able to say that because we’ve had sight of some of the draft reports (of investigations) that have been brought to us.”

Buthelezi said SAA would not be allowed to go under and would not be privatised.

He said Cabinet was seized with the issue of a fresh capital injection to keep the airline afloat, at a time when it's battling to find the cash to pay suppliers and has nearly R7 billion in loans becoming due next month when new CEO Vuyani Jarana's also expected to come aboard.

(Edited by Winnie Theletsane)

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