The South African Airways (SAA) and SA Express unveiled a joint effort to up the ante in the training of young South Africans to become qualified commercial pilots, with a focus on addressing on advancing black representation in the profession.
Speaking at the launch of the cadet program, the minister of public enterprises Malusi Gigaba was spiting fire in an address couched to defend the emphasis on producing black pilots. This stands against protests launched by some parties, like trade union Solidarity, who have argued that SAA was practicing ‘reverse racism’ in its training program and others suggesting that standards will be compromised in pursuit of affirmative action.
Gigaba said “We cannot deny the fact that South Africa remains to this day divided in terms of race, gender as well as the distribution of wealth, income and poverty. This does not mean, as some critics have pointed out, that we should lower our qualification standards or that we should create barriers for white South Africans to be eligible for training or even create uncondusive conditions during training which would make it impossible for them to succeed”.
Added Gigaba, “We need to ensure that we maintain the high quality standards of pilots as required by the South African Civil Aviation Authority as well as the International Civil Aviation Organization. However, we must make bold to say that nothing in black South Africans is inherently devoid of merit and white South Africans are also not inherently meritorious”
He said while equity the airlines will still absorb into the pool of pilots “the best of the best”.
The two state-owned airlines announced today that they will pull together their resources to create a jointly managed and resourced national pilot training programme, paying for the trainees’ classroom tuition, practical training, flying time, accommodation, travel and other related expenses.
The SOE’s said with a combined budget they want to ensure that trainees have access to highly qualified instructors, combining the very best of training methods, using purpose-built training facilities and state of the art aircraft that boast some of the best technology available in present day aviation.
SAA CEO Monwabisi Kalawe said “As the national carrier and good corporate citizen, SAA is aligned with South Africa’s employment equity objectives to accelerate skills development, extending these exciting programmes to our youth. This is an excellent opportunity for Africa’s best airline to develop and empower our country’s youth.”
SA Express CEO Inati Ntshanga said “We spent time looking at how best we could contribute towards the task of training much needed pilots for South Africa, and for our continent. This programme is going to make a huge dent in addressing the serious shortage of skills that we are seeing in the South African aviation industry. Although SA Express is far ahead when compared to the rest of the industry – we have 47 black pilots out of 255 – there’s a lot to be done still.”
The SOE’s lamented the slow transformation of the aviation industry and quoted from relevant stats.
“According to the latest audited civil aviation statistics, of the 26 022 aviation personnel licence holders South Africa had in 2012, only 2776 were African, 670 were Coloured, 553 were Indian whilst 17 346 were White. A further examination of those numbers revealed that a mere 1668 of those licence holders were African women, 383 of them were Colored women, 238 were Indian women and 2169 were White women”.
“A combined total of less than 4 000 African, coloured and Indian practitioners – against 17 346 whites – is simply not sustainable”, Public Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba said this morning, “SAA and SA Express are demonstrating here today, that indeed state owned companies, in the right hands, can be unique instruments at the disposal of our developmental state – whether its through driving transformation as we are doing here today, or systematically driving investment in our economy.”