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An end to impunity at SAA

Sep 17 2017 06:00
Justin Brown

Johannesburg - Impunity at SAA was going to end, said Themba Godi, the chairperson of Parliament’s key standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) and an MP for the African People’s Convention, this week.

“Those who mess up must be held to account,” Godi said during a meeting held at SAA’s headquarters near OR Tambo International Airport during a Scopa meeting with the SAA board, including chairperson Dudu Myeni and acting CEO Musa Zwane.

Tim Brauteseth, a DA MP, said that SAA was a national liability.

“We don’t have money here in South Africa. Every single cent counts ... I’m sick and tired of the South African taxpayer wasting money on something that should be self-sustainable,” he said.

Myeni said that SAA could be turned around, and it could be sustained without asking government to intervene.

“The global airlines are looking for growth in Africa. It is only us as South Africans that are not capitalising on the continent to grow the airline,” she said.

Myeni said that, to the public, SAA was known as an “alcoholic” or a “company that cannot sustain” itself.

“There are just a few things we need to get right for the company to be turned around.

“I’m very happy that you spoke about corruption,” Myeni told the members of the Scopa committee.

“We discovered that there was a lot of corruption. When we started the vetting process, people resigned ... That year, when people resigned, our losses for 2014/15 were R4.5 billion. In 2015/16, we reduced those losses to R1.5 billion. One of those who resigned was in the revenue collection,” she said.

“It is very disheartening to see your name in the media for all the wrong reasons.”

Godi said that his gut feeling about the SAA board was that there wasn’t “coherence and leadership”.

Scopa members met with members of SAA’s internal audit unit, the airline’s legal risk and compliance unit, the finance section and the company’s operations department.

From their interactions, the Scopa committee found SAA to be disgruntled.

Zwane said that SAA was looking for a R13 billion capital injection over three years.

SAA chief financial officer Phumeza Nhantsi said that, right now, SAA’s liabilities exceeded its assets, which meant that the company was technically insolvent.

Nhantsi said the plan was to use R9 billion of the R13 billion to settle debt.

She said that SAA’s revenue had been stagnant for the past four years at about R30 billion.

Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba is looking to raise R10 billion, possibly by selling government’s almost 40% stake in Telkom.

Godi said that R10 billion could have gone to “other things”. He said that government money wasn’t like an ATM; it was public money.

Zwane denied reports that SAA was failing to pay some of its suppliers: “We have arrangements with our suppliers and we pay according to our arrangements.”

When City Press approached Myeni after the Scopa event, she declined to comment or be interviewed on the outlook for her tenure at SAA, as well as the latest regarding the new SAA CEO.

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