Cape Town - Beleaguered national carrier South African Airways (SAA) is looking for additional state aid to buy a new fleet of aircraft, Minister of Public Enterprises Malusi Gigaba said on Wednesday.
"Shareholder support for SAA to procure a more modern and fuel efficient fleet is vital if it is to remain competitive," Gigaba told parliament.
The state-owned company has a long history of turning to the Treasury for financial aid. The opposition Democratic Alliance said Tuesday that about R18bn had been spent on SAA bailouts since 2004.
But Gigaba denied that the new purchases amounted to a bailout.
"SAA has not come to us and said we are in the red, please help us out with money," the minister told reporters.
He said the government was driving a new African aviation strategy "aimed at focusing the state-owned airlines on opportunities in the continent and on promoting regional integration".
"The fact is that Africa must constitute the primary market and route for the future South African Airways," Gigaba said.
The minister would not discuss the cost of the project or indicate the size of the new fleet.
Teddy Daka, SAA's non-executive director, said the company did not favour any one aircraft maker.
"Whichever aircraft manufacturer meets the kind of requirement that we're going to need is the one that's going to get the business," Daka said.