SAA’s Kalawe finally gets grounded

2015-04-26 17:00

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The game of leadership musical chairs at South Africa’s parastatals continues with the official departure of SAA’s CEO, Monwabisi Kalawe, on Friday.

The national carrier announced that it had reached an agreement with its suspended chief, who had agreed to walk away with the equivalent of six months’ salary.

Kalawe – who had been in charge of SAA for about 18 months – was suspended in November, pending an investigation into “serious allegations of misconduct”. This resulted in a disciplinary inquiry.

Kalawe in turn brought legal action against SAA to stop the disciplinary inquiry and to overturn his suspension, but this action failed.

In a statement issued on Friday, SAA spokesperson Tlali Tlali said the employment relationship between Kalawe and the company had “irretrievably broken down”, and they had mutually agreed to part ways.

Attempts to reach Kalawe were unsuccessful.

Kalawe became the centre of a power struggle between Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown and SAA chair Dudu Miyeni when Brown insisted Miyeni reinstate Kalawe after she had suspended him. Miyeni refused.

Oversight of SAA has now been moved from the department of public enterprises to Treasury.

When asked about recent developments about who would replace Kalawe, Treasury spokesperson Phumza Macanda said: “The minister of finance has been notified of the development. The minister is yet to be briefed fully on [the matter] and, therefore, we are not going to comment at this stage.”

But the SA Transport and Allied Workers’ Union said it was “thrilled that [Kalawe] had decided to throw in the towel”.

“Kalawe, together with his managing team, had no respect for the labour federations. He continually dismissed our requests and brushed aside whatever engagement the unions requested from SAA,” the union said.

Kalawe will receive payment in lieu of his contractual three months’ notice, and an additional payment equivalent to three months’ notice as an ex gratia payment – literally meaning “out of kindness”.

The amount has not been disclosed, but in SAA’s annual report for March 31 2014, Kalawe’s gross salary was R3.794?million for 10 months as he was appointed on June?1 2013. That would put Kalawe’s golden handshake at more than R1?million.

Since Kalawe’s suspension,

Nico Bezuidenhout, CEO of SAA’s budget carrier, Mango, has been holding the fort in an acting capacity. He has been spearheading SAA’s long-term turnaround plan.

Bezuidenhout was also acting CEO before Kalawe was appointed.

He has already cut some unprofitable routes, including to Beijing and China, and has instead partnered with Air China and Etihad Airways to reduce the costs of servicing those routes.

Treasury also reported earlier this month that it had renegotiated contracts with various suppliers in a bid to reduce costs.

Treasury has also appointed Deloitte & Touche to advise government on ways to strengthen its turnaround plan even further.

It reported that a final corporate plan for SAA would be finalised by the end of this month.

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