South Africa’s SOE system ‘cannot survive’, says ruling ANC

28 Apr 22

South Africa’s ruling African National Congress party is reportedly looking to sell or close some of its state-owned enterprises after they were “destroyed” by a decade of corruption.

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South African parliament building. Image © iStock

A draft policy document seen by Bloomberg set out the party’s intentions to review government ownership of more than 700 such companies, promising that the era of expensive bailouts is “over”.

Power company Eskom and airline South African Airways, for example, have received billions of rand in bailouts and subsidies with little return, while continuing to perform poorly.

In the case of Eskom, its struggles have led to frequent blackouts that have harmed the economy.

The document blamed years of corruption and mismanagement under the previous president Jacob Zuma, who held office from 2009 to 2018.

“Most of these state-owned enterprises were once well-run, profitable companies that were internationally competitive,” the ANC said, according to Bloomberg.

“The decade of state capture destroyed many of them, as have structural changes in some of their sectors.”

The document suggested many of these companies are beyond the government’s ability to repair.

“There is no shortage of buyers wanting to buy some of the state-owned enterprises,” it said.

“Equity partners may be required in some instances. Time is running out. The status quo cannot survive.”

Current president Cyril Ramaphosa has previously promised “drastic steps” to restore the country’s SOEs to health, because they still have potential to grow the economy.

In 2019 he said the state would retain ownership of strategic companies, owing to their “crucial economic and development functions that the market would not on its own be able to perform”.

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