File photo: REUTERS/Mike Hutchings.

PARLIAMENT - It would be patriotic and fair to South Africa's majority of impoverished citizens to shut down SA Airways, DA finance spokesman Geordin Hill-Lewis said on Wednesday.

Hill-Lewis, in Parliament's debate on National Treasury's medium-term budget policy, took issue with Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan's plea to citizens to fly SAA to help rescue the financially crippled national carrier.

"Not one further cent of public money, or a guarantee backed by public money, should be spent on SAA. Minister Gordhan says all South Africans must support SAA. That shows that even now, after R20 billion in bailouts in recent years, the Minister still cannot pry himself away from his ideology, no matter what it costs the poor," he said.

"No, no, no, Minister. The most patriotic thing for South Africans can do is to help shut down SAA. The public could force SAA into closure in a matter of days, by simply refusing to fly on it, so that it can be wound up and sold off."

SAA has received R57 billion in financial help from the state since the end of apartheid, but this week insisted that it needed a firm commitment of more public funding to be able to table its financial statements for the past two years as a going concern,

The SAA board suggested that it was mired in uncertainty, and so was its potential lenders, because government has been making contradictory statements on the subject.

It seemed to refer to tension between Gordhan's stance and that of Finance Minister Tito Mboweni who has said if he had his way, he would close down SAA.

Hill-Lewis supported the finance minister's stance, saying: "Indeed, the finance minister is one of those who sees clearly the truth, and says plainly what needs to be done."

"Our main objection is that the budget is so deeply and so indefensibly unfair to the 10 million unemployed South Africans, and to those living in poverty."

He said the mid-term budget policy takes money away from basic services " to the bailing out of zombie state-owned entities" and failed to deliver a strategy to contain South Africa's mounting national debt. 

"This budget does not present a credible plan to stabilise national debt. Indeed it sees a further explosion in national debt of R1.5 trillion over the next three years, which will burden present and future generations of taxpayers with higher taxes to pay off that debt."

African News Agency (ANA)