Gigaba unaware of SAA CEO's resignation

Johannesburg - In a case of déjà vu, Public Enterprise Minister Malusi Gigaba is on a flight to Italy and has not been informed of the recent resignation to rock national carrier South African Airways (SAA). Siza Mzimela, CEO of embattled SAA announced her resignation on Monday by sending an e-mail to SAA employees.

Gigaba was made aware of SAA chairperson Cheryl Carolus's resignation via the media in September.

According to his spokesperson Mayihlome Tshwete, Minister Gigaba is accompanying Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe on a working visit to Italy where they are expected to attend the 35th anniversary celebration of the solidarity pact between the City of Reggio Emilia and South Africa.

“The minister is in the air and has not been informed of the resignation as yet,” Tshwete said.

Tshwete also stated that Mzimela's resignation was not with immediate effect and that she will be staying on to oversee a proper handover process. SAA Airways was entitled to ask Mzimela to remain in the position for one to three months, but the company was hoping to announce an interim CEO within a couple of weeks.

Tshwete stated that SAA was appreciative of Mzimela’s commitment to helping maintain operational stability until an interim CEO was selected.

According to a Fin24 report, SAA made a loss of R1.25bn in the 2012 financial year. Mzimela does not mention this in her e-mail.

Mzimela joined SAA in May 2010, after heading up South African Express Airways (SAX). In 2011 she became the first woman to be appointed to the International Air Transport Association’s board of directors in 67 years.

SAA has seen a mixed bag of results under Mzimela, showing two years of profit in 2010 and 2011. The airline has however been plagued with a weak balance sheet.

The two best candidates to take over the post of CEO from Mzimela are probably SAX chief executive Inathi Ntshanga and Nico Bezuidenhout, CEO of SAA’s low-cost carrier Mango. Other names that may come under consideration include Alison Crookes, head of SAA’s affiliate Air Chefs, and Theunis Potgieter, SAA commercial head.
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