n approach by an SAA director requesting that Bidvest transfer 30% of its aircraft-toilet-cleaning subsidiary business to an SAA-nominated black-owned small business has been politely but firmly kicked into touch. Although the letter, leaked to City Press, invites Yakhe Kwinana – the SAA nonexecutive director who made the request – to detail the requested changes in writing, it also lists several hurdles that would make an agreement to the proposal all but impossible.
Lindsay Ralphs, the chief executive of Bidvest SA, on Friday confirmed that the letter, dated June 30, was genuine, although he said he was dismayed that confidential correspondence had been leaked.
He said the approach by Kwinana to operational management of BidAir Services at OR Tambo International Airport had been reported to Bidvest executives, but it did not amount to a formal approach to the company.
The nature of the approach by Kwinana to BidAir Services emerged as Ralphs and his co-signatory, Mpumi Madisa, asked Kwinana to explain her request.
Kwinana and fellow nonexecutive director Dudu Myeni were the only two board members retained when Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown appointed an interim board in October with a mandate to stabilise the struggling national carrier.
In the letter, Bidvest spells out that BidAir Services is 63.42% black-owned, with a 24.85% stake owned by black women.
It pointedly asks Kwinana: “Is the transfer of 30% of the contract to an SAA-nominated, black-owned small business a prerequisite for the upcoming tender?”
A crucial reference to company structure says that, as BidAir Services also provides toilet-cleaning services to carriers other than SAA, a new company would have to be formed to tender for the contract.
“Kindly advise who SAA intends nominating for the 30% shareholding,” it says.
In addition to raising issues acquiring an operating licence for the new company, Bidvest also asked whether the SAA-nominated small business would be able to fund the estimated R20 million worth of equipment required for a new contract.
A final telling point comes in a paragraph referring to tenure, saying the depreciation period for the equipment was normally 10 years, and asked “how this challenge could possibly be addressed”, as the normal contract term was three years.
Ralphs was reluctant to discuss the issue because he said Bidvest had not had any formal engagement with Kwinana.
However, he said there appeared to be a number of