The government is working on "immediate actions" to ensure SAA survival, the department of public enterprises said. Picture: Reuters/Mike Hutchings

Johannesburg - The government is working on "immediate actions" to ensure cash-strapped South African Airways' (SAA) survival, the department of public enterprises said on Wednesday, warning the airline could not "continue as is".

SAA, which hasn't made a profit since 2011 and is dependent on government bailouts to remain solvent, suffered a crippling strike this month which pushed it to the brink of collapse.

The airline needs to secure more than R2 billion of working capital to continue operations, but commercial banks won't lend SAA more money without additional state guarantees.

Finance Minister Tito Mboweni is trying to wean ailing state firms off government support and has not yet granted those guarantees.

The department of Public Enterprises, which oversees SAA, said it was working with SAA to enable it to carry on its business. But it said "SAA cannot continue as is" and that further details would be provided over the next week.

Mboweni's spokeswoman was not available for comment.

Investors want to see evidence that the country is serious about reining in runaway spending. Moody's is the last of the three big international ratings agencies to have South Africa's sovereign debt in investment grade but has a negative outlook on that rating.