Gigaba’s well-tailored rhetoric on SAA torn to shreds – Stephen Mulholland

CAPE TOWN — The former CEO of Times Media Limited in the late 1980s and of the Fairfax Publishing Group in Australia a decade later, journalist and former editor Stephen Mulholland, pulls no punches in picking apart Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba’s nonsensical mini-budget claims. In particular, Gigaba’s justifications for the ongoing funding of the bankrupt SAA – which don’t even meet the basic requirements of rationality and truth. Mulholland tells us exactly why. He unpacks Russia’s relationship with the spectacularly-failed Venezuelan state, counterpointing it in a cautionary tale with the Zuptoids insistence and political positioning around SA’s economically-suicidal trillion-rand nuclear deal with Russia. Expert energy and financial analysts writing for Biznews have repeatedly warned against this fiscal insanity, totally out of line with modern energy trends, leaving one with the inevitable conclusion that nefarious backhanders and existing shadowy commitments are driving this Zuptoid behaviour. The picture Mulholland paints of Venezuela, akin to Zimbabwe’s economic implosion, leaves one in little doubt as to where this current low road will take us. – Chris Bateman

“SAA should be sold to the private sector so that more travellers can benefit.” More magic available at

By Stephen Mulholland*

Our finance minister, Malusi Gigaba, probably the world’s worst and most expensively dressed government servant, observed, while defending, in his recent medium term budget, the state’s failure to stop the financial haemorrhaging at SAA that:

“It is in our national interest to have influence over our connectivity to all parts of the world, and not to have to rely exclusively on the profit and scheduling considerations of global airlines.”

What balderdash!

Stephen Mulholland

“SAA sells SA’s economy, tourism and culture to every one of its passengers. Global airlines do not, and will not, perform this priceless marketing and branding role.” Gee, and I thought Bell Pottinger, of white monopoly capital fame, had gone out of business.

Business Days’ Peter Bruce described this twaddle as “utter nonsense.” He was being kind. I should think that a better job of selling SA could be done internally by a decent marketing company, not Bell Pottinger, for a fraction of the tens of billions that SAA urinates down the drain every year.

I no longer fly SAA finding the Middle East operators, with their South African pilots, far superior in all aspects. Speaking of pilots, the economically illiterate Gigaba also suggested that SAA was important as it is a path for young blacks to lucrative careers as pilots.

Really? After twenty years of ANC rule the ratio of black pilots at SAA has, in fact, fallen to some 4%.        

Gigaba might approach the well-known Gupta family, those dear friends of the Zuma clan, who employ Zuma family members and at whose sprawling compound in Saxonwold state ministers frequently arrive in their gleaming limousines accompanied by at least a dozen well-armed government thugs with sirens blaring, engines revving and motor bikes roaring.

And all, of course, at the expense of SA’s hardworking taxpayers. And, meanwhile, destitute people starve in the townships having naively voted for the corrupt and incompetent ANC.

Even our revered president, when not sleeping in Parliament, has been spotted sliding into the palatial Gupta homestead, perhaps to receive his instructions.

It is also well known that Zuma has been romancing that charming tyrant, Russia’s Vladimir Putin, with a view to spending R1 trillion (yes, that is one thousand billion) on nuclear power generation that we cannot use as we have an energy surplus and a bankrupt economy, thanks to the brilliance and genius of the ANC.

Borscht conspiracy. More of Zapiro’s brilliant work available at

If we do a nuclear deal with Putin it will bankrupt us. We may, if our leaders have any sense, an unlikely proposition, ask the IMF and the World Bank to help us out. We will have to go there with cap in hand, any nuclear deal off the table,  and not in a private, luxury jet.

However if, in this event, our arrogant and ignorant leaders tell these international bodies to get lost, as did that great statesman, Robert Mugabe, then we will stagger down the Zimbabwe path to national ruin.

This path will also lead us to the trap of state capture now being tread by the likes of Putin who has recently shown his hand in that communist paradise, Venezuela, ruined by its erratic leader, Nicolás Maduro.

Flag map of Venezuela

Venezuela has been ruined notwithstanding that it claims to own the world’s largest proven oil reserves. Putin has stepped into the breach by, according to international media reports, considering a plea from Maduro, who urgently flew to Moscow to plead for Russia’s mercy in respect of GBP4.5bn (a mere R83bn) in loans.

A taste of what awaits SA as it slides into the Venezuelan swamp can be seen in the education disaster now afflicting facing that oil rich nation. Children by the hundreds of thousands are being denied school.

Clearly the fabric of Venezuela, a communist darling, is unravelling from personal security to education to health to housing to sewerage and so on and on.

With negative, low or no growth, family incomes are being destroyed. There are simply no jobs, however menial, a situation visited upon Venezuela where, reports CNN, citizens “went weeks, in some cases months, without basics like milk, eggs, flour, soap and toilet paper.”

CNN added: “Despite a crashing currency and falling oil revenue, the government continued enforcing strict price controls on goods sold in the supermarkets. It forced food importers to stop bringing in virtually everything because they would have had to sell it for a major loss.

Read also: Matthew Lester: Prepare for a ‘bloodbath’ in February after Gigaba’s mini budget

“In the first half of 2016, food imports were down by nearly 50% from the same time a year ago, according to several estimates.

“Only recently has the government stopped enforcing price controls, and food has returned to supermarket shelves. However, prices are so high that few Venezuelans can afford the food.

“Medicine remains in short supply too. Venezuelans hunt for penicillin and other remedies at pharmacies everywhere, often without any success. The country’s public hospitals have fallen apart, causing people, even infants, to die due to the scarcity of basic medical care.”

A scary scenario by any measure and this sort of report could well be describing our own country as we sink into low or no growth and then contraction with growing unemployment feeding our already steep levels of crime.

Read also: FNB CEO Jacques Celliers boycotts SAA: “This abuse has to come to an end!”

Thank you, Jacob Zuma, and your gangster buddies, the Zuptas. Nelson Mandela must be turning in his grave.   

Russia’s version of state capture extends to Saudi Arabia whose King Salman earlier this month went to Moscow on a state visit accompanied by an entourage of 1500 (eat your heart out, Jacob) and took over two large hotels.

His purpose was to meet with Putin and do some deals such as buying Russia’s S-400 air-defence systems, anti-tank weapons and rocket launchers. In return Saudi Arabia will be licensed to produce Kalashnikov assault rifles.

Further cementing this relationship, the two nations set up a couple of investment funds putting in US$1bn each while the Royal family’s newspaper, Arab News, commented that the meeting between the king and Putin “attests to a pragmatic Saudi recognition of the significant role Russia has carved out for itself in the region.”

Meanwhile, China, no slouch at emulating other great powers, is backing a new capital city for Egypt to replace Cairo. It is early days and the original estimate of $300bn included such grandiose projects as an airport larger than Heathrow.

Who knows what will become of all this. What is certain is that South Africa will be a long way from the top of targets in the sights of the great powers. But then, of course, we have the Guptas.       

  • Stephen Mulholland is a retired editor and publishing CEO. In 1966 he founded the Sunday Times Business Times1. He was editor of the Financial Mail and Business Day and SA correspondent of The Wall Street Journal. He was CEO of Times Media Limited and the Fairfax group in Australia.