SOEs are bleeding South Africa dry – and give nothing back

 ·4 Jun 2023

Despite spending billions of rands on bailouts for state-owned enterprises (SOE), the government has received almost nothing in return.

In parliament’s questions and replies, public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan was asked to provide information on the bailouts that South Africa’s state-owned companies received versus the dividends they have paid back to the government.

According to the figures released by Gordhan, the government has pumped R233.6 billion in bailouts for its SOEs over the last five years whilst only receiving a dividend payout of R1 million from one SOE.

This means that the government’s return on equity for the past five years equates to 0.0004% for all SOEs under the Public Enterprises portfolio.

Despite subjecting the nation to higher stages of load shedding, Eskom received the lion’s share of government bailouts – R181.6 billion – over the last five years whilst paying out no dividends.

Eskom is set to receive further government support, with National Treasury providing the embattled power utility R254 billion in debt relief over the next three years.

“Because of the structure of the debt relief, Eskom will not need further borrowing during the relief period. Government will finance the arrangement through the R66 billion baseline provision announced in the 2019 Budget, and R118 billion in additional borrowings over the next three years,” said finance minister, Enoch Godongwana

The second worst-performing SOE was South African Airways (SAA), which paid out no dividend and got R37.1 billion in bailouts.

Amidst its financial struggles, the government is trying to sell a 51% stake in SAA to the Takatso Consortium. Although the competition commission has recommended that its tribunal approve the deal , certain terms and conditions – including requiring some stakeholders from the Takatso Consortium to divest – have delayed proceedings.

Denel and Transnet also received billions in bailouts whilst declaring no dividend, with the latter receiving close to R6 billion over the last financial year.

Despite not declaring a dividend for the past five financial years, Alexkor did not receive any government bailouts.

The only SOE that paid out a dividend was SA Forestry Company Limited (SAFCOL), which paid out R1 million whilst receiving no government bailouts.


Year Bailout Dividends
2018/19 R23 000 000 000.00 R0.00
2019/20 R49 000 000 000.00 R0.00
2020/21 R56 000 000 000.00 R0.00
2021/22 R31 700 000 000.00 R0.00
2022/23 R21 900 000 000.00 R0.00
Total R181 600 000 000.00 R0.00


Year Bailout Dividends
2018/19 R0.00 R0.00
2019/20 R1 800 000 000.00 R0.00
2020/21 R576 000 000.00 R0.00
2021/22 R3 068 886 261.73 R0.00
2022/23 R3 582 700 000.00 R0.00
Total R9 027 586 261.73 R0.00


Year Bailout Dividends
2018/19 R0.00 R0.00
2019/20 R0.00 R0.00
2020/21 R0.00 R0.00
2021/22 R0.00 R0.00
2022/23 R0.00 R1 000 000*
Total R0.00 R1 000 000

*declared at AGM of 2021/22.


Year Bailout Dividend
2018/19 R5 000 000 000.00 R0.00
2019/20 R5 500 000 000.00 R0.00
2020/21 R18 275 000 000.00 R0.00
2021/22 R6 778 000 000.00 R0.00
2022/23 R1 583 000 000.00 R0.00
Total R37 136 000 000.00 R0.00


Year Bailout Dividend
2018/19 R0.00
2019/20 R0.00
2020/21 R0.00
2021/22 R0.00
2022/23 R5 837 000 000.00* R0.00
Total R5 837 000 000.00 R0.00

* Gordhan only provided the figures for January 2023, when Transnet received R2.937 billion as disbursement for the repair of flood damages during April 2022, and R2.9 billion to hasten the repair and maintenance of its freight rail locomotives.


Year Bailout Dividend
2018/19 R0.00 R0.00
2019/20 R0.00 R0.00
2020/21 R0.00 R0.00
2021/22 R0.00 R0.00
2022/23 R0.00 R0.00*
Total R0.00 R0.00

Gordhan said that given that Alexkor – and 51% owned joint venture PSJV – have not handled maintenance backlogs for fatal and non-fatal non-compliance with the Mine Health and Safety Act requirements over the last six years, it is not possible to declare a pay dividend at 31 March 2023.


Year Bailout Dividend
Eskom R181 600 000 000.00 R0.00
Denel R9 027 586 261.73 R0.00
SAFCOL R0.00 R1 000 000.00
SAA R37 136 000 000.00 R0.00
Transnet R5 837 000 000.00 R0.00
 Alexkor R0.00 R0.00
Total R233 600 586 261.73 R1 000 000.00

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