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SAA pilots won't be intimidated by sabotage claims

Dec 07 2015 08:47
Matthew le Cordeur

Cape Town – Tension at South African Airways (SAA) has increased to new heights as the chairperson of the SAA Pilots Association said he refuses to be intimidated by allegations of sabotage against his black colleagues.

Captain John Harty said the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (Hawks) informed him on Friday of intelligence that he and other pilots had attempted to recruit SAA technicians to tamper with the rudder system of an aircraft in order to commit sabotage.

This, according to the intelligence, was an attempt to discredit the black pilot who would be flying it.

Harty said the intelligence has “a whiff of intimidation” about it after his organisation’s vote of no confidence in the SAA board and its chairperson Dudu Myeni, signalling the start of a battle between the pilots and the board.  

“Neither I nor my association will be intimidated and forced to back down in our efforts to ensure that the SAA board is replaced by people with aviation management expertise and that a CEO with appropriate skills and experience is appointed.”

Hawks probe SAA for corruption and irregular closure of routes

Harty’s summonsing to the Douglasdale Police Station by the Hawks on Friday comes after the Hawks said last week that they intended to probe charges of corruption and the irregular closure of routes by the airline.

“We have an investigation that we will be conducting and the SAA board has been informed,” Hawks spokesperson Hangwani Mulaudzi told Bloomberg on December 2. “There is a specific issue that we will be dealing with, but we are not able to speak about it now.”

Clearly, the probe will now go beyond its original mandate.

The SAA pilots decided to have the vote of no confidence last month, after its members discussed the financial situation at the airline, the controversial Airbus deal and possible breaches of certain legislation.

Nene rejects SAA board's Airbus proposal

"It is hoped that this vote will serve as a clarion call to Minister of Finance Nhlanhla Nene and the government that the future of SAA requires immediate and urgent attention and that a new board, fit for purpose and able to deal with the challenges currently facing the airline, be appointed as soon as possible," said Harty.

Last week, Nene rejected the board’s proposed amendment to SAA's Airbus A320/A330 swap transaction structure.

Responding to the Hawks' information, Harty said that “if the allegations weren’t treated with such seriousness by the Hawks, I’d have laughed at the sheer absurdity of them”.

However, he said because the Hawks believed the intelligence has veracity, he will cooperate fully with any “legally competent, objective investigation, as there is not a single shred of evidence that will corroborate this allegation”.

Myeni explains race issues with pilots

Myeni told parliament last month that the issue with the pilots started when they split the role of chief pilot.  

“When I was appointed to act as chairperson, the chief pilot was retiring and we felt for 81 years we had never had a chief black pilot.

“It was a position that was going to be advertised and we decided to give black pilots an opportunity,” she said.

A compromise was made where the position of chief pilot split into two, she explained. “The chief pilot became a ceremonial position and now the most powerful is the flight operations management position.

“It is OK to split it, but we felt we don’t have faith in own home-grown leaders. That is what has led to the issue,” she said.

SAA has yet to publish its results for the year to end-March and has been given a January 15 deadline to do so.

south african airways  |  hawks  |  dudu myeni
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