December 18, 2020: In another attempt to save the national flag carrier South African Airways (SAA), the government through the department of public enterprises (DPE) has appointed six non-executive directors to the interim board of the airline. The board will see to the restructuring of the airline for profitability and professionalism.

The 86-year-old carrier went into business rescue in December 2019. On March 26, 2020, acting CEO Zuks Ramasia resigned, opting for early retirement by serving till April 14, 2020.

The directors include Nick Fadugba, chief executive officer, African Aviation Services; Geoff Qhena, CEO of the Industrial Development Corporation; Peter Tshisevhe, director and partner at TGR Attorneys; June Crawford, director at Aviation Co-ordination Services; Bembe Zwane, CEO at PSS Car Rental and chairperson at PSS Aviation; and professor Edna van Harte, former chairperson of the Defence Service Commission who are expected to reposition the airline by 2021.

Last week, DPE made the announcement through a statement that Qhena will chair the board and expected to restore proper governance and oversight of the airline during the implementation of a business rescue plan.

“As a shareholder on behalf of government, the DPE is delighted that these experienced professionals have agreed to join the board of SAA. Their combination of academic, financial, legal and aviation experience, with deep knowledge of global aviation and transportation trends, will bring a new perspective as the national carrier prepares to relaunch next year.”

The appointments, it said also enhance the independence and balance of the board, whilst continuing the process of transformation and renewal.

“Nick Fadugba, is an aviation professional with many years in consulting and promoting aviation development on the African continent, including leading the African Airlines Association (AFRAA). He has served as the Chairperson of African Business Aviation Association and has been involved in discussions on a Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM),”said DPE.

In charting the way forward, the DPE said it believes that the key to solving the difficulties facing SAA is the finalisation and implementation of the business rescue process, followed by the start of a restructured airline; appointment of a leadership team; and securing a credible strategic equity partner who can introduce the required technical, financial, and operational expertise into the business.

“The new airline will be run in a professional and sustainable manner to support key economic sectors – including tourism, trade with the continent, the local aeronautics industries and local service providers,” said the department.

SAA is among several South African state-owned companies to have become technically insolvent without financial assistance from the government, following years of mismanagement and corruption scandals -- particularly under the presidency of Jacob Zuma, which ended in 2018. The airline has seen at least nine chief executive officer changes in the past decade, hampering attempts at a turnaround, while responsibility for the carrier was passed from the DPE to the national treasury and back again.

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