State-owned airline South African Airways (SAA) has spent R9.4m on purchasing almost six million copies of the Gupta-owned newspaper the New Age‚ the Democratic Party says.
DA spokesperson on public enterprises Natasha Mazzone said this was despite the embattled airline remaining in financial crisis and relying directly on government funding to remain a going concern.
She added that this had been revealed by the Minister of Finance‚ Nhanhla Nene‚ in reply to a parliamentary question. Nene stated that since March 2011‚ SAA had purchased 5‚927‚000 copies of The New Age that were supplied to domestic on-board flights‚ lounges and airports.
“The fact that the newspaper is both owned by the politically-connected Gupta family‚ and has an editorial stance which is unashamedly pro-Zuma‚ requires Minister Lynne Brown to assure every taxpaying South African that the agreement is above reproach and free from political interference‚” Mazzone asserted.
She said she would write to Brown on Sunday‚ requesting she institute an independent probe into the decision making for this expenditure.
“The probe must consider whether the President or his acolytes had any influence on the agreement between SAA and the New Age‚ whether such spending is financially viable given the current state of SAA‚ and why the New Age was chosen ahead of any other national newspaper‚” Mazzone added.
She said there no doubting the fact that SAA was in a financial crisis.
“In January this year‚ SAA received a R6.5bn guarantee from the Treasury‚ bringing the total guarantees it has been given to R14.5bn. Debt costs are expected to amount to R500m for the 2014-15 financial year from R250m in the previous period. SAA reported a R2.5bn loss in the 2013-14 financial period‚ up from R1.7bn in the previous financial year.
“In addition to this‚ SAA sees it fit to handsomely compensate its most senior staff. The total remuneration paid to 13 board members in the 2014/15 financial year was a combined R12‚631‚303‚ with former CEO and director Monwabisi Kalawe earning a handsome R4‚552‚981 and CFO Wolf Meyer taking home R3‚661‚080.
“For a State-Owned Entity to be in such a torrid financial situation requires the most astute financial decision making from its management. Therefore Minister Brown needs to show concrete proof indicating that the decision to spend almost R10 million on a newspaper which is owned by the President’s closest friends was a sound one – not one based on political interference‚” Mazzone said.