By Javed Malik
I WRITE this letter based on what I am personally experiencing and what I am going and have gone through. I have been in the aviation sector for almost a decade. I see a lot of incompetent experiments in the industry. This is not strange when you appoint people based on favours and irrelevant degrees.
I, and presumably many other South Africans, continue witness the persistent unfolding of sad developments in our aviation sector over the past 10 years.
In a tough environment, I am, as are other like-minded individuals and groups, trying to advocate transformation and growth of the sector. Sadly, I have come to realise that, when we speak to the relevant authorities, inept advisers have no idea what kind of sector they are dealing with; for them, it’s a ghost.
Some experimental experts in aviation have even been trained at the expense of taxpayers’ money, and in the end there has not been a single shred of accountability.
Matters deteriorate when so-called financial institutions are unwilling to provide support and are, at best, window dressing.
When we choose board members, it seems as if we are forgetting that we are supposed to do so on merit for the good of aviation and not a financial board, unemployment agency or favourable phone call.
How can we move the aviation sector forward if the appointed boards don’t understand the industry? You can’t do a great job merely by understanding corporate governance and transparency.
I spoke to “a top expert” connected to a portfolio committee and asked whether he had any experience in aviation. He answered with confidence that he hadn’t, but because he had a degree in engineering, no one could run aviation better than him.
I realised after many similar conversations that many people, who supposedly claim to be leading aviation, have no knowledge of what kind of ghosts they are dealing with. It dawned on me that they are there for the money, perks, connections and milking dry state-owned enterprises.
As someone who has been honoured to be part of high-level delegations, inbound and outbound, I always spoke about the need to include the aviation sector in the delegations. Mostly, they always listened with passion and they were willing to assist with zero implementation. What an irony.
The truth that those who dare to listen must hear is that we don’t have a united voice that can speak on growth and relief for industries on behalf of everyone. Some aviation organisations are working on environmental changes and keeping their seats warm in conferences. Nothing is more dangerous than incompetent people holding top positions. Either they don’t speak for fear of losing their jobs or favours, or they don’t want to make waves.
The industry needs to be saved and restored. If that is not done soon, I’m afraid the aviation industry will not survive in good health.
At a time like this, when the future of our sector is at stake, unions, employers and governments must come together to save aviation. We have not always agreed in the past, and we will inevitably have our disagreements in the future. Nevertheless, if we allow this crisis to take its course unchecked, soon we will have a major disaster on our hands. There will be no profits for businesses, no wages for workers, and no services for passengers and global and national economies. We cannot allow that to happen to our aviation sector.
I have no doubt that the authorities are willing to listen and assist us as long as we approach them in the right way, particularly when we are working for the good of the economy, the nation and the industry and not for ourselves.
Air transport generates incredible social and economic benefits for many different people, governments, national economies, large and small businesses, and travellers who simply want to visit family or enrich their lives seeing new places and experiencing new cultures. Ours is a fragile industry which, if we are not careful to handle it with care, expertise and in unison, will crumble.
Another factor is that our aviation sector is very far from recovering. I’m appealing to government authorities, airports, aviation organisations and particularly to aviation competitors to be introspective and start collaborating with each other. We must take a stand and act responsibly for growth, job creation and transformation.
Javed Malik is an avid aviator and strong advocate of transformation in South Africa. He is the co-founder of Cobra Aviation, a passenger and cargo operator. He was also the former chairperson of the Regional Aviation Working Group BRICS Business Council SA Chapter.
*The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL or of title sites