SAA pilots keen to engage with new minister

Cape Town - South African Airways (SAA) pilots expressed eagerness for a speedy meeting with newly sworn-in Finance Minister David van Rooyen at a special general meeting on Thursday.

"We appreciate that there is now a new Minister of Finance and it is going to take some time for him to come up to speed in a very complex portfolio," said Captain John Harty, chairperson of the South African Airways Pilots' Association (Saapa) in a statement on Thursday.

Harty said the pilots appreciated that Van Rooyen would need some time to come to grips with his complex portfolio.

"We are going to engage with his office to provide him with background information on SAA that we believe is essential for him as the new representative of the shareholder. 

"We look forward to an opportunity of engaging with him as soon as possible, and most certainly before he makes any decisions regarding the governance of South African Airways," said Harty.

The Saapa meeting was attended by 415 pilots in person and by proxy.

At the meeting the pilots also unanimously declared a vote of full support and confidence in Harty as well as the Saapa leadership.

This comes after tensions at SAA rose to new heights as Harty refuted allegations of sabotage against his black colleagues.

READ: SAA pilots won't be intimidated by sabotage claims

It was alleged that Harty and other pilots had attempted to recruit SAA technicians to tamper with the rudder system of an aircraft to commit sabotage, in an attempt to discredit the black pilot who would be flying it.

Harty called the allegations "absurd".

At a previous meeting in November the pilots voted overwhelmingly in favour of a vote of no confidence in the SAA board and its chairperson Dudu Myeni, signalling the start of a battle between the pilots and the board. 

According to Harty, the vote of no confidence was prefaced by a discussion on the financial situation at SAA, a controversial Airbus deal and possible breaches of certain legislation as well as the impact of recent statements made by the chair on the authority of the captain of an aircraft.

READ: Pilots enter vote of no confidence in SAA board

"It is hoped that this vote will serve as a clarion call to Minister of Finance Nhlanhla Nene and the government that the future of SAA requires immediate and urgent attention and that a new board, fit for purpose and able to deal with the challenges currently facing the airline, be appointed as soon as possible," said Harty at the time.

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