The inclusion of previously disadvantaged individuals into the aviation industry is a critical imperative for transformation, according to Public Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba.
Speaking at the launch of the Pilot Cadet Training and Development Programme for South African Airways (SAA) and South African Express (SAX) this week, he said the inclusion of the those who had been previously disadvantaged was necessary to fulfil the orders of the Constitution, which requires the country to not only recognise the injustices of the past but to redress them.
“The Cadet Pilot Training Programme, developed by SAA in 1994, was an initiative aimed at redressing the imbalances of the past and meeting statutory transformation targets. Since the programme’s inception there has been steady but slow progress in ensuring required targets are met,” the Minister said.
Senior captain at the national carrier, Mpho Mamashela, started an aviation awareness programme for the country’s previously disadvantaged groups and also established SAA’s cadet pilot training programme.
To date the programme has processed 246 cadet pilots, 166 of whom have successfully completed training and are currently with SAA and SAX.
“Despite these developments, we still have a huge imbalance between the country’s demographic structure and that of our pilots. This does nothing to comply with the Constitution’s injunction to reverse injustices, heal the divisions of the past and create a society based on social justice.”
Gigaba said there had been complaints about the programme.
“Some in our country have complained that SAA, for example, is recruiting 33 black cadet pilots and only seven white cadets. Statistics indicate that SAA has 793 pilots and out of these 667 (85%) are white and only 124 (15%) are black (Africans, Coloureds and Indians put together),” he noted.
Between 1994 and 2012 SAA trained 190 black cadet pilots compared to 51 white cadet pilots.
For SAX, out of a total 255 pilots 208 (81%) are white and only 47 (nine percent) are black. There are 47 black cadet pilots and SAX has 123 white captains and only three black captains.
All 84 pilots with low-cost carrier Mango are white.
With regard to gender equity of the 793 SAA pilots, only 70 (eight percent) are female, while SAX has 10% female pilots among its 214 pilot population.
Since 1994 the national carrier has had 60 female cadets compared to 181 male cadets and 48 of those successfully completed training compared to 118 male cadets who also successfully completed training.
“These statistics highlight the blatant fact that the rate and levels of transformation in this sector has been taking place at a painfully slow rate and there is critical need to increase the pace of transformation to address the significant levels of demographic and gender imbalance embedded in the aviation sector.
“Through this programme, the three state-owned airlines – SAA, SA Express and Mango – will now strengthen their role as engines of economic growth in our developmental state and, as leaders in the transformation of the aviation sector, strive towards reflecting the diversity of the country in the skilled echelons of their workforce,” Gigaba said.
Trade union Solidarity has already embarked on legal action as well asking the Human Rights Commission to become involved in the national carrier’s latest round of pupil pilot selections. The 40 candidates who made it to final selection are all from previously disadvantaged population groups, it was announced earlier this month.
“SAA’s exclusion of white male candidates constitutes subsidised racism,” the trade union’s general secretary Dirk Hermann said.
“The taxpayer is forced to pay for the government’s obsession to apply national racial demographics at all levels, everywhere in South Africa, absolutely. This approach has led to racial figures becoming more important than service delivery.”
The Centurion headquartered trade union has taken up cudgels on behalf of 10 young white men who applied to be pupil pilots with the national carrier but were turned down apparently because of their race.
At the time of publication Solidarity had not reacted to the SAA/SA Express pilot training initiative.