SAA: A desperate state of affairs
S outh African Airways (SAA) almost doubled its net loss for the 2014 f inancial year to R2.55bn from R1.17bn in 2013.
On 30 January, Nico Bezuidenhout, acting CEO of SAA, described the desperate state of affairs at the national carrier to a group of around 100 members of the media and economists in Kempton Park.
Bezuidenhout was made acting CEO in November last year after Monwabisi Kalawe, who had headed up the airline since June 2013, was mysteriously suspended. Bezuidenhout, who is also CEO of SAA’s low-cost carrier Mango, was brought in to urgently stem the f lood of cash out of the airline’s coffers. His first move on taking up one of the hottest seats in the country was to implement a string of emergency measures in a ‘90 day Action Plan’.
But jaded South Africans aren’t ready to believe there’s any light at the end of the tunnel. Mistrust has dogged the SAA executive for well over a decade and claims of political meddling, subterfuge and backstabbing have been rife for as long as anyone can remember. Stability has been forfeited by rapid changes in leadership – almost always clouded in dubious controversy.
Bezuidenhout has acted as CEO for SAA before, sandwiching Kalawe’s two year-long tenure. Before Bezuidenhout’s f irst stint, Vuyisile Kona had been at the helm. The former chairman was suspended in February 2013 after a mere four months. He had replaced Siza Mzimela who stepped down in October 2012 after the national carrier reported a R1.25bn loss. Her departure came a mere 10 days after the board chair, Cheryl Carolus and seven of her non-executive board members, walked out, saying t hat t heir relationship with government had broken down irrevocably. The sorry tale stretches years into the past.
Last week, it emerged t hat t he only airline with a higher debt to equit y t han SAA’s -13% was t he American Airlines Group – which