SAA Pilots To Lay Corruption Charges Against Board

Allegations of corruption and financial mismanagement have emerged.
Siphiwe Sibeko / Reuters

As the South African Airways (SAA) board came under fire in Parliament on Tuesday, the airline's pilots announced they would lay criminal charges against the board for allegations of financial mismanagement.

Board chairperson Dudu Myeni was the only board member to arrive for the meeting in Parliament, City Press reported on Sunday. She was accompanied by chief financial officer Phumeza Nhantsi and someone acting in the place of acting CEO Musa Zwane. The airline was due to brief Parliament's finance committee on its performance in the last quarter of the 2016/2017 financial year.

Meanwhile, the South African Cabin Crew Association (Sacca) briefed the media on what it calls criminal activities happening at SAA, eNCA reported. Sacca officials reportedly presented a document outlining numbers and names of officials it believes are looting the airline.

Sacca president, Zazi Sibanyoni-Mugambi reportedly said the union had "no other choice" but to lay criminal charges. The union says irregular expenditure at SAA is in excess of R1.8 billion.

"We have written to the ex-minister of finance, we have written the board countless letters, we have written the new financial minister, and to date no one is addressing our issues... We are going to the police to lay charges so that they can prove us right or wrong. If we are wrong, the investigators will say SACCA was incorrect," he reportedly said.

SAA spokesperson Tlali Tlali told eNCA that everyone in the document was innocent until proven otherwise, and that he hoped the union's claims were based on evidence and not aimed at impugning people's reputations.

In Parliament, MPs argued over whether the SAA presentation should go ahead at all, City Press reported. Some felt it was futile to continue without the presence of the other board members, while others wanted to hear from Myeni.

Finance committee chairperson Yunus Carrim reportedly revealed that there had been attempts to postpone the meeting for a variety of reasons, since last Wednesday.

One of these reasons was reportedly that the presentation took place days before lenders were due to extend loans to SAA, and it was feared that the discussions would derail these negotations.

Carrim reportedly said some wanted to protect Myeni from being criticised.

Carrim was quoted by City Press as saying:

"Those who want the meeting to be postponed, you may be falling on the lap of the section that didn't want this meeting to take place. There was an attempt to stop this meeting taking place. Those of you who are asking for it not to go ahead, unintended or consciously are serving that purpose," said Carrim.

After over 100 minutes of arguing, DA MP Alf Lees said the airline was on the verge of bankruptcy.

"This airline is on the verge of bankruptcy. It's our information that they battled to pay salaries in May and will battle to pay salaries in June. Whether it's true or not, I don't know but I can't have the opportunity to check on that.

"What I do know is that there is R9 billion worth of loans that they have to either roll over or repay by the 30th of June. If those loans are not rolled over, this airline will be bankrupt, it will close down. This has huge implications not only for the airline, but for our economy and for thousands of employees.

"We can't simply put this matter off until September. This is not about Dudu Myeni, this is about the future of this airline which is about to close down if they don't get the money to continue," he said.

The meeting was postponed until August.