EXCLUSIVE: SAA's Dudu Myeni hits back at Acsa CEO | Fin24
 
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EXCLUSIVE: SAA's Dudu Myeni hits back at Acsa CEO

May 18 2016 13:18
Amanda Khoza, News24

Durban – South African Airways (SAA) Chairperson Dudu Myeni told News24 in an exclusive interview on Tuesday that the national carrier had every intention of growing the OR Tambo hub, but that it had to compete with increasingly competitive foreign airlines.

This, she said, required a comprehensive national strategy involving all stakeholders.

Myeni was responding to Acsa CEO Bongani Maseko who told the Sunday Times at the weekend that if the problems at SAA were not fixed urgently, OR Tambo International Airport would lose its status as a major hub connecting Africa to the world. 

Myeni said it was unfortunate that she had to respond to Maseko's views through the media, but had to do so to protect the brand, its leaders, and "valued passengers".

She said she would have preferred that Maseko address his concerns with SAA directly and not through the media, as that would have helped her get an understanding of the burning issues which are seen as an impediment for Acsa. 

"We believe that we have a great working relationship with the CEO of Acsa. Acsa is our biggest client; we pay them landing fees of over R100 million per month. We value the relationship and we want to cement it in the 'conversation' that he has said to have required."

SAA stable

Myeni said the board welcomed constructive criticism. 

"We welcome any positive conversation which will grow SAA, OR Tambo as a hub and the economy of the country, that is our main focus..."

Referring to Maseko saying that SAA needed to sort itself out in order to keep Johannesburg on the map, Myeni reponded: "The board would like to assure Acsa that SAA is stable, the turnaround strategy is being implemented with remarkable successes, financial losses are being reduced and one such exciting achievement is the unveiling of a new African growth strategy in the near future."

She said she fully concurred with Maseko that working together would help achieve growth into the continent as part of an African growth strategy. 

"SAA has always experienced challenges but I am happy to say that operationally we have complied with National Treasury's requirements as prescribed in the shareholder compact and we are on track."

Weak balance sheet

Myeni said that the airline had improved its financial losses by more than half and once it had received the going concern guarantee from Treasury, it would table the 2014/15 annual financial statements.

"This demonstrates that despite what we read in the media, SAA is slowly being turned around. Its performance has improved dramatically and is on course to becoming profitable in a few years."

She said historically, financial losses dated back to the then CEO Coleman Andrews tenure when the balance sheet was depleted because he sold most of the fleet.  

"We run a capital intensive business on a weak balance sheet."

She said steps taken by the board to tighten up governance were never reported about in the media. 

"There have been appalling attacks on the airline without considering the context or seeking a balanced perspective.

"We have instituted a number of forensic investigations and these have uncovered issues such as maladministration, corruption and misconduct. This is part of SAA sorting itself out. We are acting on allegations and are implementing recommendations made to correct governance issues."

Regaining previous dominance

She said SAA had conducted one forensic investigation into procurement processes to better understand the procurement space through which the airline spends R24bn per annum. 

"We were not convinced that this area was properly managed or negotiated. Phase one of the investigation, which focused on 48 of 1 500 contracts, has been completed and it disclosed many weaknesses which we are sorting out.

"We are now implementing the recommendations and taking corrective measures. We found that some of those contracts had varying degrees of faults including having no contracts in place, renewal of contracts without due process, others that did not comply with the PFMA Act and others with monies being overpaid."

Myeni also said, "We are also looking to regain our previous dominance in certain strategic routes that have been closed."

Myeni said a high level conversation across all sectors having a vested interest would help SAA regain its competitiveness. 

"That is what we need to take us back to commercial sustainability and build OR Tambo as a hub. I welcome criticism but it must be purposeful and constructive. Mr Maseko is welcome in my office, my door is always open.

"Let us have a proper conversation," said Myeni.

 

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