President Cyril Ramaphosa answering questions from the members of Parliament. File photo: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency/ANA

PARLIAMENT – President Cyril Ramaphosa on Tuesday poured cold water on any future sale of South African Airways (SAA), saying the state-owned airline held too much debt. 

"If you were to say today that yes sell SAA, you would not even be able to get any value for it. You would have to possibly pay somebody to take SAA off your hands," Ramaphosa told MPs during a question-and-answer session in the National Assembly.

"If we were for instance to say shut it down, it basically means the debt in SAA becomes payable immediately."

Ramaphosa said this could have a knock-on effect on debt owed by other state-owned enterprises which could "collapse our fiscus".

The president was asked to clarify government's policy position after comments made by Finance Minister Tito Mboweni at an investor conference in New York last week. 

The finance minister was quoted as saying: "It's loss-making, we are unlikely to sort out the situation, so my view would be close it down. Why I say close it down, it is because it's unlikely that you are going to find any private sector equity partner who will come join this asset." 

Ramaphosa, however, said government was still actively pursuing a private equity partner for SAA and possibly other state-owned enterprises.

"There is nothing wrong with saying we can get a strategic partner which is well-steeled in come in and be our partner and we take SAA forward. Rather than shut it down that is one of the options we are looking at and it promises quite a lot for future stability at SAA."

African News Agency (ANA)