SAA chairwoman grilled by parliament, ducks resignation questions

Photos_Web_Photo_SAA_10_04_13

South African Airways (SAA) has launched two new mobile applications.

PARLIAMENT - SAA board chairwoman Dudu Miyeni on Wednesday asked for seven days within which to tell MPs whether she would resign from her position or not.

Briefing Parliament’s standing committee on finance and its portfolio committee on public enterprises, Miyeni came under fire from opposition parties, with the Democratic Alliance and the Economic Freedom Fighters calling for her head.

“Honourable chairperson, can I please have your indulgence on this particular question. I will respond in seven days,” Miyeni said.

She did not elaborate on the significance of her requested seven day reprieve.

Miyeni faced some tough questions and demands from opposition parties, with the EFF’s Floyd Shivambu proclaiming: “The SAA board must fall”, while the Democratic Alliance tried to push her for an answer on when exactly she would “do the right thing for SAA and resign”.

Miyeni and her current interim board were taken to task for the state-owned entity not having completed its financial statements and annual report for 2014/15, for the controversial airbus swap deal which looks set to be renegotiated, and the unhappiness of SAA staff, including its pilots who have passed a vote of no confidence in the board.

On the Airbus A330 transaction, which SAA wants to renegotiate, deputy finance minister Mncebisi Jonas jumped to the airline’s defence, insisting there was nothing illegal about Miyeni or the airline’s actions.

“At the moment, I don’t think it’s correct to assert that there is anything illegal that has been done. The debate at the moment is about the business decisions, whether this business decision is correct or incorrect,” Jonas said.

Treasury director general Fuzile Lungisa wrote to SAA executives in October warning of the implications of renegotiating the transaction, saying they could not conclude the deal without permission from Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene.

The airline could lose around R1.4 billion in pre-delivery payments should the renegotiation of the deal not be successful.

SAA this week submitted an application to renegotiate the Airbus deal with Treasury.

“The fiscal and liability committee is now looking at the application and hopefully in a week, the minister will be responding to SAA,” Jonas confirmed.

“It must not leave SAA in a worse financial position and in their [SAA’s] application they have to prove that.”

Jonas also warned against targetting individuals for SAA’s woes.

“There is too much over-focus on individuals and the focus on personalities and individuals is very unhelpful…”

Chairman of the standing committee on finance Yunus Carrim gave SAA until January 15 to submit its annual report to Parliament, and submit to scrutiny by MPs.

The airline was budgeting for a R652 million loss.

SAA indicated it would require further guarantees of as much as R5 billion from government for it to continue operating as a going concern.

While Jonas did not say whether the request for further guarantees would be approved, he poured cold water on suggestions that SAA would receive additional funds from the fiscus.

“We are firm on maintaining our fiscal stance as a country,” he said.

“We have consistently maintained we must try to align growth with expenditure. In that context, the recapitalisation of state-owned entities is out of the question…”