JOHANNESBURG – The Democratic Alliance (DA) warned that South African Airways (SAA) faced “”imminent liquidation” and that the standing committee on finance needed to push forward its September 20 meeting with the airline to August 31 “before it collapses”.
It followed the resignation of the national carrier’s head of the audit and risk committee, Yakhe Kwinana on Monday.
Kwinana, a prominent member of the board, said she feared reputational damage if SAA was liquidated or went into business rescue.
In the statement, the DA’s deputy shadow minister of finance Alf Lees called an emergency meeting with SAA to ensure that the airline was placed under business rescue.
“This week’s shock resignation of board member, Ms Yakhe Kwinana, at SAA as the head of the audit and risk committee, the astounding report that board chair (Dudu) Myeni is not able to communicate with Finance Minister (Pravin) Gordhan and Standard Bank requiring repayment of a R250-million loan means that liquidation is increasing become a certainty.
“Even worse is that SAA’s R14,4bn in government guarantees has been completely depleted, leaving it without any options. If a further bail-out from government is to be avoided SAA must immediately be placed under business rescue.
Lees said history had proven that “no strident actions can occur at SAA with Ms Myeni at the helm”.
He said Kwinana’s resignation was not only a message to the minister of finance that SAA may be liquidated shortly if he does not act, but her message also resonated clearly to the South African public: that no state- owned entity can survive political interference, especially one with close links to the president in the form of Dudu Myeni.
“The SAA memorandum of incorporation calls for there to be five board members of which the majority needed to be non-executives. After Kwinana’s resignation, there are only four board members left, of which only two are non-executive. This gives Treasury the directive and legal mandate it needs to reconstitute the board with new members.
“Treasury needs to act urgently and replace SAA’s board. Kwinana has fallen on her sword in order to save SAA from being liquidated, her sacrifice must not be in vain.
“This resignation also leaves the audit chair open, which can only be filled by a non-executive director with a financial background. With the deadline for financials required by Hong Kong given as September 6, 2016 before they refuse SAA planes landing rights.
“SAA financials must be released before September 6 or else Hong Kong will be just the start of the withdrawal of landing rights epidemic that will spread through to different countries including South Africa.
“The DA cares for the vast amount of jobs that will be lost if SAA is liquidated, we believe government should urgently intervene to avoid adding to the unemployment crisis that has led to almost 9 million people being jobless.”
SAA was unable to comment at the time of publication.