SAA:

Finweek English Edition - - IN THE NEWS -

SAA’s ninth turn­around plan in 13 years is go­ing to be driven and man­aged by a team of spe­cial­ist con­sul­tants, a move that is likely to cost the crip­pled na­tional car­rier even more money it doesn’t have.

This week SAA CEO Monwabisi Kalawe s a i d br i ng­ing i n c hange spe­cial­ists was an ef­fort to get the air­line on track. A weary sound­ing Kalawe said that the min­is­ter of pub­lic en­ter­prises Lynne Brown was cracking the whip and wanted the plan “im­ple­mented yes­ter­day”. He ad­mit­ted that his job was un­doubt­edly one of the tough­est in the coun­try.

Brown, who was given a hos­pi­tal pass when she took over from Malusi Gi­gaba in June, over­saw the res­ig­na­tion of six board mem­bers in Oc­to­ber.

As­ton­ish­ingly though, chair­woman Dudu Myeni was kept on de­spite t he board ’s harsh crit­i­cism of her per­for­mance in May. In leaked min­utes of a board meet­ing – which she re­fused to at­tend – mem­bers ac­cused her of be­ing neg­li­gent and derelict in her du­ties, and de­manded that she be re­moved from her post.

In ad­di­tion to Kalawe and Myeni, CFO Wolf Meyer and non-ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Yakhe Kwinana are some of those which Brown has cho­sen to keep on to try to sta­bilise the most re­cent lead­er­ship mess at the na­tional car­rier. In ad­di­tion, John Tambi and An­thony Dixon were ap­pointed in a last-ditch ef­fort to get Op­er­a­tion Gain­ing Al­ti­tude to the end of the run­way. Tambi has ex­ten­sive ex­pe­ri­ence in project man­age­ment and an en­gi­neer­ing spe­cial­i­sa­tion in the trans­port sec­tor, while Dixon brings 29 years of ex­pe­ri­ence in ac­count­ing and au­dit­ing to the board.

It i s go­ing t o be a mam­moth task: years of walk­outs, back­bit­ing, i nternecine f ight­ing and dra­matic res­ig­na­tions have wracked the na­tional car­rier as it unswerv­ingly haem­or­rhages cash and has to be bailed out by the ‘share­holder’– ul­ti­mately, the tax­payer.

SAA and its sub­sidiary, South African Ex­press, are tech­ni­cally in­sol­vent. The depart­ment of pub­lic en­ter­prises (DPE) has held back the an­nual f inan­cial state­ments of both air­lines un­til there is cer­tainty that they are not go­ing bank­rupt. This can­not hap­pen un­less they get more fi­nan­cial support.

Last year the state pledged R5bn of tax­pay­ers’ money to SAA and R539m to SA Ex­press. For the third year in a row nei­ther air­line has been able to pro­duce its fi­nan­cials on time.

Gi­gaba, who over­saw the ini­tial phases of the turn­around, al­lowed loss­mak­ing routes such as Buenos Aires to be cut, but clung to the Beijing route, which cur­rently costs the air­line R300m a year. In Jan­uary, Gi­gaba also put the brakes on or­ders for R60bn worth of fuel-ef­fi­cient air­craft, say­ing that in­dus­tri­al­i­sa­tion and lo­cal­i­sa­tion for South Africa needed to be en­sured. “There must be ben­e­fits for our coun­try,” Gi­gaba said when he made

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