Epitaph to senseless Cemair grounding: $25m pa, 100 jobs move north

In the Daily Insider four months ago, I opined that the State’s shoddy treatment of entrepreneur Miles van der Molen’s Cemair was an opportunity for president Cyril Ramaphosa to show he is serious about supporting the “heroic entrepreneurs” about whom he waxed lyrical at his 2018 Investment Summit.

That opportunity has now passed. Van der Molen has been granted a licence by the Canadian authorities and although Cemair will continue operating in SA, the bulk of its operations will now be generating hard currency, taxes and jobs outside the country.

Van der Molen tells me it was only because of the politically-motivated grounding of Cemair by local aviation authorities that he started looking to house the bulk of his operations elsewhere. Most of Cemair’s business is elsewhere on the continent, for example flying for the Red Cross in Nigeria and multi-laterals in Tunisia and South Sudan.

Relocating the headquarters in Canada means around $25m a year in foreign currency generated by Cemair will no longer flow into SA, with more than 100 jobs also going. Van der Molen says had he been faced with an aviation problem, he’d have worked through it. But Cemair was hit by “a political problem – and the country has shown it isn’t business friendly. It’s that simple.” Is anybody in Pretoria listening? Or joining the dots?