Struggling firms splurge on World Cup tickets

Struggling South African state-owned firms have spent R110-million ($14,23-million) on World Cup tickets angering trade unions which have accused top executives of selfishness, the Sunday Times reported.

The powerful Congress of South African Trade Unions general Secretary Zwelenzima Vavi described the purchase of hospitality tickets by the state enterprises, including South African Airways, power utility Eskom, oil company Petro SA, logistics group Transnet, and some municipalities and state departments as “outrageous”.

Eskom faces a possible strike this week, which could disrupt power supply during the World Cup, after unions at the power utility declined to accept a 8,5% pay rise for the workers and voted to start a wage strike, after reconciliatory talks between the management and unions failed.

Most state enterprises rely on government bail-outs to continue their operations.

“It’s the most selfish way of spending money and it is recklessness of the worst kind,” Vavi told the paper.

“We are appealing to workers to act in the national interest, when their managers are acting in the most selfish way,” Vavi was quoted as saying.

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), representing about half of Eskom’s 32 000 staff, said none of its members benefitted from the hospitality tickets.

“Only the executives and their wives and their children received tickets,” NUM spokesperson Lesiba Seshoka told the newspaper.

Eskom was not immediately available for comment but Transnet’s spokesperson John Dludlu said his company, which defended the purchase of tickets in a recent presentation to the Parliament, would not issue further comment.

South Africa Airways spokesperson Fani Zulu was quoted as saying that the airline had given out 1 633 tickets in order to raise its branding.

“SAA used the hospitality packages to enhance its brand value, especially among tour operators, to enhance sales of flights tickets during the tournament,” Zulu said.

Ayanda Noah, Eskom’s managing director of distribution, told the M&G recently that Eskom bought 1 110 tickets during 2009 and 2010. Of these, about 700 were hospitality tickets, valued at about R17 000 each. The remaining 400 were for general seating.

The executive decision to purchase the tickets was taken in November 2008, only four months before the end of the financial year that saw Eskom hit its biggest loss of R9,7-billion.

Eskom’s dire financial situation led to the parastatal asking the World Bank this year for a R27-billion loan to maintain the country’s supply of electricity. – Reuters and staff reporter

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