05/09/2017 03:57 SAST | Updated 05/09/2017 03:57 SAST

South African Airways Is The Perfect Example Of How Socialism Can Impoverish Even Socialists

The fruits of socialism: it impoverishes everyone equally except the rulers.

Waldo Swiegers/ Bloomberg/ Getty Images
The logo of South African Airways sits on the tailfins of Airbus Group NV A340, left, and A330-200 aircraft parked at O.R. Tambo International airport in Johannesburg, South Africa.

In their familiar government-mindedness, our Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba and his coterie of Marxist advisors say they remain convinced that South Africa still needs a state airline despite SAA limping from crisis to crisis, burning public money at the speed of sound in the process.

But why is it in the interest of a poor man in the village to keep supporting this dead duck that is South African Airways with public rands when there are thousands of kilometres of road that need repairs in a shrinking economy with rising levels of poverty, unemployment and public debt?

I have said elsewhere that airlines are the reserve of the rich and middle-class families who are able to afford the air tickets and get the lucrative contracts from the companies. Why does government need to own and operate an airline in order to achieve any public purpose? We build roads, bridges, water systems and low-cost houses for the poor without government owning and operating construction companies.

We even disburse billions of rands in social grants without government operating any financial services company. Why should it be any different with an airline? From the early 1900s to the 1980s, no one could have imagined that telecoms and postal services could be anything other than a government service. But very few people today would want a data plan with a government service provider.

SAA will always be in complete disarray because government decisions about it are fuelled more by ideology rather than correct arguments and impartial evidence. Our Finance Minister, clearly out of depth and lacking the independence of mind necessary to take correct but unpopular decisions, has been fretful trying to raid whatever public resources he can lay his hands on in order to save the disaster that is SAA.

We heard earlier that he might dispose of government shares in Telkom to save SAA. While disposing of government interests in any business is not bad in itself, but doing so in order to save a badly managed entity like SAA is grotesque by any stretch of the imagination.

As it is the case everywhere with socialism, the rulers will be spared from all the carnage that follows their mismanagement of public finances.

Now we have been told that Minister Gigaba has also added government employee pension contributions to his list of public assets to be raided in his rampage to save this zombie airline. It has taken this threat to their livelihoods for our socialists, most of whom are government employees, to realise that government's socialist economics is bad.

The nationalisation and government-led development message they preach on TV threaten to destroy their life savings and impoverish them like the people of Venezuela. Suddenly they have come to realize the dangers of socialism because it threatens their own livelihoods. COSATU is now protesting against the possible raid of PIC funds by Gigaba to save SAA. Those are the fruits of socialism: it impoverishes everyone equally except the rulers.

I imagine how our socialists in the SACP, government and the trade union movement will be blaming "white monopoly capital" and capitalism when government pensioners have to apply for social grants in 10 years' time because the government raided their pension contributions in a brazen mayhem of financial mismanagement and runaway public debt fuelled by an ideology of socialism.

As it is the case everywhere with socialism, the rulers will be spared from all the carnage that follows their mismanagement of public finances. We already hear that some of them are setting themselves up in expensive addresses in Dubai.

Minister Gigaba needs to realise that if he is to balance the national budget, he needs productive austerity which will earn him few friends amongst his government colleagues, a majority of whom think we could solve our problems by printing more money and employing everyone in government. For now he is only succeeding in purging Pravin's people from the National Treasury.