Media release: SAA hiding behind “commercially sensitive information” – hearings must not evade public’s right to know

Media release
1 June 2018

SAA hiding behind “commercially sensitive information” – hearings must not evade public’s right to know

The FMF is dismayed and disturbed by media reports that future briefings by SAA to Parliament may be behind closed doors starting with next week on 7 June. This is an abuse of the the public’s right to know about the use and misuse of their hard-earned taxes. It also violates the Constitution. If CEO Vuyani Jarana and the Board are confident of their turnaround plan, then they should have nothing to fear. What do they want to hide? In a highly competitive marketplace like aviation, there is little which is not clear to other players or that cannot be deduced. But it is the public’s right to know that is at issue here. The public need to know how public funds are being utilised and SAA and Treasury have a duty to inform. SAA cannot hide behind the excuse of “commercially sensitive information”. 

The Constitution is unambiguous and must not be ignored.

  • Section 1 – the Founding Provisions – insists on an “open government”.
  • Section 41 – the principles of cooperative governance – insists that each organ of State in each sphere of government must “provide effective, transparent, accountable and coherent government for the Republic as a whole”.
  • Section 57 – governing internal arrangements of the National Assembly (NA) – says that when the NA makes rules, they must have “due regard to representative and participatory democracy, accountability, transparency 
    and public involvement”.
  • Section 70, which governs the National Council of Provinces, repeats this.
  • Section 59 – public access to the NA – says the NA “may not exclude the public, including the media, from a sitting of a committee unless it is reasonable and justifiable to do so in open and democratic society”.
  • Section 195 – the principles of the public administration – insists that in all organs of State “Transparency must be fostered by providing the public with timely, accessible and accurate information”.

The Constitution is almost 100% against these briefings being closed or partially closed to the public. It is inconceivable that something like “market sensitivity” may lead to the proceedings being closed. This provision was intended for circumstances related to national security, terrorism or war and not to hide commercially related information.

SAA is costing the taxpayer tens of billions of rands: R45 bn to date, another R22 bn requested. It is outrageous that the very same government that has kept this tax-guzzling machine on life-support for over two decades would have the gall to close these briefings to public scrutiny. Public sentiment is now overwhelmingly against keeping SAA as a state-owned airline. It is time to close SAA down.


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