SAA's integrity will still fly high: Board Chair

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Johannesburg - The integrity of South African Airways (SAA) will continue to be a priority while much focus will be put on fine tuning operations at the airline, newly appointed SAA board chairperson Vuyisile Kona said on Tuesday.

Speaking to SAnews, Kona said: "What we are trying to say is that the organisation is bigger than individuals. As an entity we want people to focus on that. For us as a board we are saying that the integrity of the operations is being maintained and nothing has changed."

Public Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba on Friday announced the appointment of eight new board members, headed by Kona. This followed the immediate resignation of eight members of the previous board, which was headed by Cheryl Carolous. It had been reported that there were issues with the previous board and the department.

On Friday, Gigaba confirmed the resignations of Carolus; Russell Loubser; Bonang Mohale; Louis Rabbets; Jabulani Ndhlovu; David Lewis; Teddy Daka and Maggie Whitehouse.

At the same time, he announced the appointment of Kona as the new chair as well as that of Andile Mabizela; Andile Khumalo; Bongisizwe Mpondo; Dr Rajesh Naithani; Carol Roskruge; Raisibe Lepule and Nonhlanhla Kubeka.

Since the announcement, Kona has held talks with the former chair of the board. "I spoke to her yesterday and we will be meeting again next week so that we have a proper transition. She is going to share her thinking with me and she will do a proper handover," explained Kona.

A farewell ceremony for the old board will also be held.

On what direction the new board will take, the chairperson said an induction process was scheduled for 12 October; after which more details will be given.

"We haven't actually met yet. We are going to be meeting after the Annual General Meeting. What I have been busy with is to engage with the Chief Executive Officer Siza Mzimela trying to understand where the company is at, as well as trying to understand for myself what the new policy is. [I have] also been engaging management to assure them that nothing will change," he said.

The Annual General Meeting is expected to be held on 15 October.

On preparations for the meeting, financial statements have been signed and will be presented to the public. "However, this will be run by the shareholder [the Department of Public Enterprises]."

On whether the national airline will obtain a R6 billion guarantee from National Treasury, Kona said the minister would be making a pronouncement on that.

"It is not just only SAA that is experiencing problems. The South African government is not the only government that is supporting its airline. The Japanese government poured billions into its bankrupt airline. We don't want to go that route. We rather want to fine tune operations without allowing the airline going into bankruptcy," said Kona.

Kona has previously worked at the airline, having served as the head of SAA subsidiaries and was axed in 2005 by the then CEO Khaya Ngcula.

On Tuesday Kona said he was excited to be back at the airline, adding that there was "never a dull moment in the aviation sector".

"It is challenging but extremely exciting."

The minister, who issued a statement on the new appointments on Friday, said he had no doubt that the new board had the capacity to assist government in propelling the airline to greater heights. -

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