Government by throwing your weight around
Political studies departments at our universities will soon be able to introduce a new course for first-year students: "Government by throwing your weight around".
The most recent example of this phenomenon was the threat by the Air Services Licensing Council, a statutory body, to ground Comair, a privately-owned airline competing with South African Airways on domestic and regional flights. The reason given was that Comair, which operates a British Airways franchise in South Africa, had exceeded the 25% limit for foreign shareholding.
Regulatory bodies should of course have the power to suspend the licences of airlines in the interests of safety. To threaten to do so because of a dispute over shareholding is an extraordinary abuse of power that recklessly disregards the inconvenience and costs that its action would inflict on thousands of passengers.
Confronted with the threat of an interdict in the courts, the licensing council wisely beat what the Department of Transport described as a "strategic retreat".
The council's behaviour is reminiscent of that of the minister of sport, Fikile Mbalula, who last month barred local rugby, cricket, and athletics bodies from hosting international events on the grounds that they had failed to meet "transformation" objectives.