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Afflicted by SOE pathogens: Badly run State-owned enterprises are bleeding us dry

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Afflicted by SOE pathogens: Badly run State-owned enterprises are bleeding us dry

2nd October 2020

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MR President, I feel nauseous. I also have an aching sensation in my chest and arms, and it has already spread to my neck and jaw. My political physician suspects that there could be internal bleeding in the wallet region of my body.

I have tested positive for the virulent State-owned enterprise (SOE) pathogen, initially known as Monopoly money. It seems our cash-guzzling SOEs have one thing in common: they are always faced with a liquidity crisis and the possibility of not being able to fulfil their obligations. Truth be told, we are bled dry to keep the chosen few secure in comfort. Pardon me, Mr President, I have lost my appetite for pouring money down the drain. Let’s cut our losses and move on.

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Let’s start at SAA, shall we? Since 1994, taxpayers have given SAA more than R57 000 000 000 in bailouts. Let that sink in, it’s R57-billion. In return, SAA keeps the anointed aristocrats of the revolution in the air, tenderpreneurs well fed, and children of the revolution warm and financially secure at the expense of the public purse.

Apparently SAA requires a further R26.7-billion if it hopes to be airborne again. Like mushrooms, we have been kept in the dark and fed on manure about the final decision on the future of the ailing state airline. It’s nauseating. This despite it being more than nine months since it was placed in business rescue.

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We get mixed messages from the government depending on the weather. I mistook Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan for a man with iron in his spine, well I was wrong. Gordhan is as weak as gnat’s piss. Public policy can’t be swayed by threats, strikes and the whims of politicians. What I am trying to say is let’s cut our losses and liquidate SAA. Whatever was left of SAA in terms of brand equity has been eroded by the political indecisiveness and business-rescue practitioners.

Mr President, I almost disgorged my breakfast upon learning that South Africa still has a Post Office. I haven’t received a love letter from my primary school sweetheart Zodwa in 13 long years. The last mail delivered by the Post Office to me was from a bank; it was two years late. Some “top” civil servant born with a weak intellect, a goiter and protruding pot belly has suddenly, like a bolt out of the blue, made an astonishing discovery: the Post Office is financially unstable, and is sitting with obsolete technologies and an outdated business model. The audacity!

I have news for you, Mr President, the Post Office has not been profitable in 13 years, except in 2006 when a profit of R276-million was made.

The taxpayer must now fork out a whopping R4.9-billion to keep the Post Office afloat, why? If we can’t run the Post Office at a profit, it’s because we don’t need it. Duh, it’s 2020.

Throwing money at the Post Office is similar to digging trenches by hand and then having men fill them up again. It isn’t gainful employment but a means to keep the unions happy and ANC crooks feeding at the trough. Oops! I should have said “alleged” crooks, who must be presumed innocent until the Hawks locate their wings and the NPA head honchos show courage or grow a spine, or whichever occurs first. Asikho ndawo bakithi!

As I battle ill-health, news has broken that the SABC is requesting another bailout of R1.5-billion. Not to be out-done, the Airports Company South Africa (ACSA) has gone with begging bowl in hand, not for a bailout but an “equity injection” of R3.5-billion. This is allegedly because of the impact Covid-19 has had on the trading environment.

The arms firm Denel faces the risk of entering bankruptcy protection or being liquidated unless we find yet another spare billion or two. It was only in August last year that Denel received a bailout of R1.8-billion. And it still has R3.4-billion of government-guaranteed listed debt that is now due.

These dull-witted scoundrels who run the SOEs to the ground must be sent to the army barracks for good or jail, or whichever occurs first.

Let’s stop propping up the pot bellies of trade unionists, tenderpreneurs and thieving politicians.

Till next week my man, in the meantime, let’s get a dose of Epsom salt to cleanse ourselves of the demon that causes the Ramaphosa administration to play Monopoly with the taxpayers’ money.

I feel a fist-like pain in my chest, I need to lie down. “Send me.”

This Letter from Mahlamba Ndlopfu is written by Bhekisisa Mncube, a Zulu ambassador based in Pretoria. He is also an author of the Love Diary of a Zulu Boy (memoir) and former senior Witness (Media24) political journalist.

This opinion piece was first published in the Witness.

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