The Insanity of South African Airlines

By James Peron

There is a humorous saying: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

It’s often attributed to Albert Einstein, but he isn’t the one who said it. It isn’t the definition of insanity either — but it does describe a trait we could call crazy. Our species tends to repeat past mistakes hoping our “good intentions” will be enough to change the results — this time.

It also describes government policy with regard to South African Airways. Every few months the same thing is done as was done before, even though the results from the last round were as unsuccessful as the results from the round before that.

SAA SAL South African Airways 1980s airplane tarmac

South African Airways jet, 1988 (c) Richard Sincere

SAA, with begging bowl in hand, comes to the government asking for bailouts. Politicians line up to explain why the faltering airline should be allowed to reach into the pockets of taxpayers yet again while SAA officials solemnly promise that, this time, things will be different.

Then, a few months later, it starts all over again — the only change being the SAA debts that continue to grow along with the size of the bailouts.

Yet what can only be described as one massive, financial disaster is not how the partisan supporters of SAA see things.

Consider SAA supporter President Ramaphosa: “Here is the reality — SAA is laden with debt right now, as we speak, it is laden with debt for a whole number of reasons… If you were to say today sell SAA, we would not be able to get any value for it.”

His solution is to keep doing what we’ve done so far, which has only resulted in larger and larger debt. The solution to unpayable debt is not more debt.

SAA’s chief executive Vuyani Jarana reported that as of 31 March they had just R13-billion in assets and R26-billion in debts. Four months later he said debt had increased by another R2-billion, without any increased value in assets. Jarana estimated total debt for the financial year would increase by another R6-billion.

SAA has consumed R30-billion in wealth to date and wants more. That’s R30-billion that can’t be used for proper government functions — such as crime fighting. That’s R30-billion that taxpayers no longer have; to feed their families, put a roof over their heads, or educate their children. That’s R30-billion in jobs destroyed in the prosperous sectors of the economy to prop up a relatively small number of jobs at SAA.

It is estimated SAA will require yet another R21-billion over the next three years. Yet, Mr. Ramaphosa argues that unless taxpayers are put on the hook for R21-billion in additional debt they will have to repay current SAA debts of R22-billion.

All this assumes that, this time, the bailouts will miraculously work the magic that failed to materialise from previous ones. But, if history is any indication — and it usually is — the cumulative debt in three years’ time will be greater and politicians of the future will be lamenting how yet another bailout is necessary to prevent the much larger debt from immediately coming due.

Each day the cumulative debt of SAA grows and in political logic it means another bailout is more urgently needed. To avoid paying debts the government argues it must go further into debt. That’s like ending famine by confiscating food.

Tito Mboweni got it right when he said SAA “is loss making, it’s unlikely to sort out the situation… we should close it down.”

Taxpayers were told SAA creates jobs because of tourism and trade, yet SAA has been cutting flights and ending services and has promised to cut even more. Minister of Public Enterprise Pravin Gordhan said the airline will not open new routes — it doesn’t have the funds.

So, what has been happening as SAA cuts routes? One thing we discovered is that markets work — competitors are increasing their services to cover the very routes SAA abandoned. While the state-owned airline fails, private competitors such as British Airways and Lufthansa are increasing the number of seats on their airlines. Instead of doing so at taxpayer’s expense, they also happen to be taxpayers.

In 2012, SAA cancelled direct flights between Cape Town and London because it couldn’t make a profit. British Airways happily took on the route at a profit. During summer, they fly twice daily between Heathrow and Cape Town with additional flights going in to London Gatwick. They have also added direct flights between Durban and Heathrow.

Lufthansa and its affiliated airlines now offer direct flights from Cape Town to Frankfurt, Munich, Vienna and Zurich.

Even the lucrative Johannesburg/London route is showing SAA falling further and further behind with BA adding flights so they have 18 per week. SAA planes have a maximum of 1,743 seats per week to London, BA flies larger planes with room for 7,422 passengers, four times what SAA is capable of doing.

The reality is, as SAA shrinks, South Africa isn’t losing tourism. Instead, competitors are stepping in with larger planes and the amount of tourism has increased! SAA is actually hampering tourism with its smaller planes and less frequent flights. Even its once thriving market in regional African flights is suffering. When SAA cut off Cape Town, insisting passengers fly first to Johannesburg, Cape tourism attracted flights from Air Botswana, Airlink, Kenya Airways, Rwandair, Air Namibia, Air Mauritius and others.

SAA’s failures have not led to the death of tourism at all. It has opened up slots for better-managed airlines to fill the gap and grow tourism.

Mr. Ramaphosa asks whether South Africa can afford to close SAA—evidence suggests he should be asking whether South Africa can afford NOT to close it

* * * * *

James Peron is the president of the Moorfield Storey Institute. He was the founding editor of Esteem (an LGBT publication in South Africa under apartheid). This article originally appeared on Medium.com; reprinted here by permission of the author.

China’s legalisation of rhino horn trade: disaster or opportunity?

Hubert Cheung, The University of Queensland; Duan Biggs, Griffith University, and Yifu Wang, University of Cambridge

The Chinese government will be reopening the nation’s domestic rhino horn trade, overturning a ban that has stood since 1993. An outcry since the announcement has led to the postponement of the lifting of the ban, which currently remains in place.




Read more:
The case for introducing rhinos to Australia


The directive, if instituted, would require that rhino horn be sourced sustainably from farmed animals and that its use is limited to traditional Chinese medicine, scientific and medical research, preserving antique cultural artefacts, and as educational materials.

The announcement has been widely condemned. The United Nations Environmental Program called it “alarming”. But done carefully and correctly, and with necessary international consultation, it doesn’t have to add to the threat to rhinos. Indeed, it could even support rhino conservation.

legal trade rhino horns China Africa
A legal trade of rhino horns, as seen here, could ensure income goes to legitimate conservation efforts as opposed to criminals.
Paul Fleet/Shutterstock

 

Rhino horns regrow and can be sustainably and humanely harvested from live animals. Those arguing for legalisation say that a well-regulated trade could be a source of funding for expensive rhino conservation. It could also help reduce poverty and support development around protected areas.

A legal trade could also provide an alternative supply of horns, where income goes to legitimate conservation and development efforts, rather than to criminals, which is currently the case.

Rhino horn for medicinal use

The directive from Beijing stipulates that rhino horn for medicinal use must come from rhinos bred specifically outside of zoos (such as at dedicated horn-farming facilities). The ground-up horn powder would then be certified under a scheme developed by a coalition of Chinese regulatory agencies.

These agencies should draw from China’s experience regulating the medicinal use of pangolin scales to make sure poached horn does not infiltrate the legal marketplace. Though strictly controlled since 2008, illegal pangolin products continue to be seized frequently throughout China.

According to the directive, the medicinal use of rhino horn will be restricted to treating urgent, serious and rare diseases. This is consistent with what traditional Chinese medicine practitioners see as the appropriate application of rhino horn. Strict guides for clinical application will be needed to prevent misuse and overuse, particularly given the length of time that rhino horn has been unavailable to law-abiding clinicians.

Existing rhino horn stocks

Beyond medicine, the directive stipulates that people who already own horns will be able to declare their stocks. The government will then issue identification and certification records. After this, the horns must be sealed and stored safely, and not traded under any circumstances, barring gift-giving and inheritance.

This part of the directive is particularly concerning, as such a scheme will be complex, potentially giving owners of poached rhino horns smuggled into China a get-out-of-jail-free card. Lessons should be learned from the ivory trade in Hong Kong, where poached ivory has been laundered into legal stocks thanks to inadequate record-keeping and lax enforcement.

This section of the directive also raises concerns about the development of a socially accepted practice of gifting rhino horn akin to that of Vietnam. There, rhino horn has been found to be given as a gift for terminally ill family members and in business settings, where horns are offered as bribes to government officials. Strict enforcement will essential if China is to make sure illegal trading under the guise of gifts is not to spread.

China rhino horn trade legalization
China will have to work with countries where the rhinos live in Asia and Africa.
Kevin Folk/Unsplash

Working with China

China will have to work with countries where rhinos live, including range states in both Asia and in Africa, as well as other rhino conservation stakeholders around the world. Swaziland and South Africa have previously proposed legalising the international trade in horn as a mechanism to fund and bolster conservation efforts.

Domestic trade in horn is legal in South Africa, and China and South Africa will have to coordinate to make sure their domestic marketplaces support rhino conservation and don’t enable transnational laundering and trade.

Beijing’s decision has certainly attracted immediate and fierce criticism from some conservation and animal welfare organisations. This criticism is exacerbated by different moral perspectives. Some people see the sale and consumption of rhino horn to fund conservation as morally repulsive. For others, it is legitimate and pragmatic.

Whichever side of the debate you stand on, the priority should be conservation outcomes and making sure that China’s newly legalised domestic horn trade strengthens rather than dangerously undermines rhino protection efforts. Rhino conservationists will need to find common ground with Beijing. This requires an appreciation of different cultural and moral values, and the use of evidence on how to minimise risks to rhino under the directive.

Responding to the widespread criticism, Chinese officials clarified that the implementation of the directive will be postponed. The government has also launched a short-term enforcement drive against illegal trading of rhino horn, which will run until the end of the year.

While heightened enforcement actions are welcome, it indicates that China can do much more to tackle illegal wildlife trade. China must strictly enforce its own regulations once its domestic horn trade has been opened.




Read more:
The northern white rhino should not be brought back to life


Postponing implementation gives Beijing time to develop a detailed and robust set of regulations. Now is the time for rhino range states, conservation scientists and concerned groups around the world to work with Beijing so that the impending domestic horn trade in China can be a positive for rhino conservation.The Conversation

Hubert Cheung, PhD Candidate in Conservation Biology, The University of Queensland; Duan Biggs, Senior Research Fellow Social-Ecological Systems & Resilience, Griffith University, and Yifu Wang, PhD Candidate, Department of Geography, University of Cambridge

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

How events in Ethiopia will influence the Horn of Africa

Namhla Matshanda, University of the Western Cape

Reforms currently sweeping through Ethiopia under the new Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed have implications for the relationship between Ethiopia and its neighbours. Ethiopia is seen as the de facto leading state in the region. But it has a history of clashing with neighbouring states.

The current reforms have the potential to bolster Ethiopia’s leadership role in the region. And an Ethiopia that is perceived as a unifying force could lead to more stability.

Peace in the Horn of Africa could depend on how Ethiopia handles its reforms process
Peace in the Horn of Africa could depend on how Ethiopia handles its reforms process.
Shutterstock

 

Two recent announcements stand out: the normalisation of relations with the northern neighbour Eritrea and the signing of a peace deal with the Ogaden National Liberation Front, a separatist movement that has sought self-determination for the Somali region of Ethiopia.

The reasons these two developments are so important is that the tension between Ethiopia, Eritrea, and the Ogaden National Liberation Front have each contributed to instability in the region. The peace deal brokered between Ethiopia and Eritrea will not only affect internal tensions within Ethiopia. It’s also likely to signify a new chapter in the politics of the region.

For its part, the peace accord with the Ogaden National Liberation Front will end a long-standing conflict with the Ethiopian state. This conflict has shaped Ethiopia’s relationship with its Somali region, as well as Ethiopia’s relationship with the Republic of Somalia. The Somali region of Ethiopia is one of nine regional states under the current ethnic federal system in Ethiopia. It is mostly inhabited by Somali-speaking people.

Territorial statehood

Tensions – both within Ethiopia and between Ethiopia and its neighbours – are rooted in history. The formation of Ethiopia’s Empire state in the late nineteenth century was shaped by the absorption of smaller kingdoms in the south, east, and west of Shewa.

Shewa was Ethiopia’s political centre located north of the current capital Addis Ababa. By the late 19th century the incorporation of these territories was almost complete. By this time the capital had been moved to Addis Ababa.

This incorporation of territories is how the idea of the modern “Ethiopian state” emerged. But this imposition of state power on the new territories was contested. It has been the root cause of much of the country’s internal upheavals.

The importance of territory in Ethiopian statehood was further demonstrated by the 1952 incorporation of Eritrea as an Ethiopian province. Most Eritreans resisted the occupation and took up arms. The occupation was followed by nearly 30 years of conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrean liberation movements.

Ethiopia has also been in conflict with neighbouring Somalia since Somalia gained independence in 1960. Shortly after its independence, the new government in Mogadishu began to prioritise clan loyalties as it formed a new centralised state. This pitted various clans against each other and widened the chasm between clan loyalty and nationality.

The foreign policy objectives of the new Somali Republic were influenced by the level of influence it enjoyed in the Somali-inhabited regions of its neighbours. This included the Somali region of Ethiopia.

Eventually, the push and pull between the republic and its diaspora contributed to the rise of a separatist narrative within the Somali-inhabited regions. This spawned organisations such as the Ogaden National Liberation Front. The front is a separatist rebel group fighting for the self-determination of Somalis in Ethiopia’s Somali region.

Conflict and territory

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s Ethiopia was mired in conflicts that challenged its territorial integrity. One was the Ethiopia/Eritrea war.

Self-determination was at the core of the conflict between the Ethiopian government and Eritrean liberation movements. Throughout the conflict it was viewed as a civil war since Eritrea was regarded as a province of Ethiopia.

Similarly, the tension between Ethiopia and the Somali separatist movements was triggered by the Somali belief that their territory belonged to the Somali Republic.

These conflicts led to regional instability.

Ethiopia taking centre stage

Ethiopia has been on a path of reform since 1991. In the intervening years it has become the most economically dominant country in the region. This has cemented its leadership position. The current political reforms can be seen as part of a process of redefining Ethiopia’s role in the broader East African region – and the continent.

The governing Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front and the Ogaden National Liberation Front have been in peace talks since the early 1990s. The unsuccessful talks were accompanied by low-intensity conflict that severely affected the region.

That could be about to change. Thanks to Abiy Ahmed’s reform efforts, the front announced a unilateral ceasefire in August 2018, and by September peace talks had begun with the Ethiopian government and a peace deal was signed. There is cause for optimism that the deal will last because of the current leadership in Addis Ababa.

The peace deal with Eritrea has already had a number of positive outcomes that could contribute to regional stability.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and President Isaias Afwerki have met several times to announce concrete evidence of the peace deal. Abiy also recently hosted his Eritrean and Somali counterparts to cement regional ties.The Conversation

Namhla Matshanda, Lecturer, Political Studies, University of the Western Cape

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Preparing for future Ebola outbreaks in Zambia

By Moses Michael-Phiri

[BLANTYRE CITY, MALAWI] Zambia has begun training healthcare workers in provinces that border the Democratic Republic of Congo so that rapid response teams have the necessary skills to prepare and respond to an Ebola outbreak.

The effort follows continuing outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the threat it poses to neighbouring Zambia. The outbreak has resulted in 106 deaths out of 162 confirmed cases as of last week (2 October), according to the WHO.

“We do not want a repeat of the tragedy that hit the Western part of our continent in 2014.”

Victor Mukonka, Zambia National Public Health Institute

Building capacity to prepare and respond to health emergencies is critical,” says Victor Mukonka, a public health expert who is also director of the Zambia National Public Health Institute (ZNPHI). “We do not want a repeat of the tragedy that hit the Western part of our continent in 2014. The trained rapid response teams at all levels assures a good response capacity for any community and we encourage all member states to take up this strategy.”

The Ministry of Health through the ZNPHI trained 216 health workers in North-Western and Copperbelt provinces last month (1-8 September) while 86 were trained in the Northern and Luapula provinces on 13-18 August.

Those trained include environmental health officers, doctors, nurses, public health officers, pharmacists and laboratory personnel.
Ebola in DRC Infographic 2
There is a need to strengthen surveillance and collaboration between the two countries because of increased cross-border movements, says Nathan Bakyaita, Zambia WHO representative, in a statement from the WHO Africa region.

Mazyanga Lucy Mazaba Liwewe, head of ZNPHI’s health information system, tells SciDev.Net, “The focus of the training is to… have necessary health information on Ebola for risk communication, infection prevention, specimen collection and referral, surveillance as well as clinical case management.”

According to Ante Mutati, a provincial surveillance officer for Luapula and a training participant, as frontline healthcare workers they are to educate the other team members on how to tackle Ebola outbreaks.

Mukonka calls for the need to collaborate to fight the preventable scourge affecting the continent by tapping existing platforms and in a multi-sectoral manner, taking into account the comparative advantage each sector and each country has.

“It is important that Africa takes ownership and leads in addressing matters of health and other determinants affecting the continent,” he tells SciDev.Net.

This piece was produced by SciDev.Net’s Sub-Saharan Africa English desk.

 

This article was originally published on SciDev.Net. Read the original article.

J. Peter Pham Named as Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region of Africa

The U.S. Department of State distributed this press release earlier today.

Press Statement
Heather Nauert
Department Spokesperson
Washington, DC
November 9, 2018

Peter Pham Africa Great Lakes Special Envoy Secretary Pompeo is pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. J. Peter Pham to serve as the United States Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region of Africa. Dr. Pham will be responsible for coordinating the implementation of U.S. policy on the cross-border security, political, and economic issues in the Great Lakes region, with an emphasis on strengthening democratic institutions and civil society, as well as the safe and voluntary return of the region’s refugees and internally displaced persons.

Dr. Pham serves as Vice President and Director of the Africa Center at the Atlantic Council. He brings to the Department vast Africa experience as the former vice president of the Association for the Study of the Middle East and Africa (ASMEA) and editor-in-chief of its quarterly Journal of the Middle East and Africa; an associate professor of Africana studies at James Madison University, where he was director of the Nelson Institute for International and Public Affairs; and on the Senior Advisory Group of the U.S. Africa Command.

Dr. Pham will assume the work previously undertaken by Senior Coordinator for the Great Lakes, Ambassador Larry Wohlers. U.S. ambassadors to the countries of the Great Lakes region remain charged with the conduct of bilateral relations. Dr. Pham will work in close coordination with the Assistant Secretary for African Affairs and our ambassadors in the region to further the Department’s work toward lasting peace, stability, and economic prosperity in the Great Lakes region.