Comments by ANC chairperson Gwede Mantashe’s on South African Airways (SAA) are widely seen as a surprise move that appears to break ranks with the party.

He has said if SAA could not sustain itself, it must be sold to a willing buyer.

SAA was placed under voluntary business rescue in December last year. It has received more than R20 billion in bailouts over the last three years.

Speaking at the ANC’s 108th-anniversary celebrations in Komga in the Eastern Cape on Saturday, Mantashe said government could not continue using billions of rand to bailout an entity that was failing to generate revenue.

“R2-billion in December, R3.5-billion from DBSA this month, still it doesn’t have money – there is something wrong. Let’s deal with the issue that is wrong and not throw money at the problem, because throwing money at the problem doesn’t improve the quality of service. In anyway, airlines don’t transport the working class and the poor. If it will not be privatised, it must deliver a developmental and sustainability mandate.”

On Friday, President Cyril Ramaphosa told the media that government did not agree with SAA’s decision to cancel most domestic as well as some international routes.

Ramaphosa also said there were no plans to sell the airline.

“SAA is not only a great symbol for the country, but it is also an economic enabler. It enables people to move around the country and we would like SAA to remain a robust and successful airline. That is why we took the decision not to close SAA but to ensure that it is revamped, resuscitated and it starts operating profitably.”

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