#StateCaptureInquiry: 'It was shocking where SAA ended up under Gigaba' – Carolus

2018-11-29 22:01
Former minister Malusi Gigaba. (Photo by Gallo Images / Sowetan / Esa Alexander)

Former minister Malusi Gigaba. (Photo by Gallo Images / Sowetan / Esa Alexander)

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Former SAA chairperson Cheryl Carolus told the judicial commission of inquiry into state capture that it was "shocking" where SAA ended up under Malusi Gigaba as public enterprises minister.  

Carolus told inquiry chairperson Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo on Thursday that Gigaba was "hostile" towards the board and was "determined to ruin our reputations".

She said in 2012 when SAA had received a clean audit and submitted its financials on time, Gigaba wrote to Parliament that the state-owned airline's financials had not been finalised.

She explained to Zondo that when the board was nearing the end of its term its members were becoming concerned about some of Gigaba's public utterances about them.

"The minister spoke at the Cape Town Press Club and he made quite sweeping statements about the fact that SAA, the board, had no strategy and it had no vision and, basically, they were unpatriotic," she told the commission.  

She said Gigaba's utterances could not have been correct because each year, the board submitted its business plan, strategy and corporate plan which were evaluated on a quarterly basis. 

Gigaba 'just a politician'

"So, we did think it was inappropriate and quite nasty for the minister to be going around [saying these things] but he knew it wasn't true. 

"I rolled my eyes, some of the other board members felt much more angry about it. People felt that the minister was just being malicious, and I just said to them that the minister was just a politician," she said.   

She said when he was confronted about his public utterances, Gigaba claimed he was quoted out of context.  

ALSO READ: Gigaba's push for Jet Airways and SAA to collaborate was 'peculiar' – Carolus

She also told the commission that it worried the board that the former minister said it did not have a strategy and was not competent.  

"At this stage we got a bit concerned. Six months after conclusion of our financial year the minister had not disclosed our financial state – we met the PFMA (Public Finance Management Act) requirements by submitting our financials to our accounting authority."   

She said Gigaba had postponed an annual general meeting in order to secure a guarantee letter for SAA from Treasury.

Resignations

Carolus told the inquiry that following this, members of the board wanted to resign, with one handing in her a letter of resignation. 

She said at the time, the company was in good health, and added that she pleaded with members of the board not to resign. 

"I said to them 'look it is a matter of days until our term comes to an end, please let us not harm the airline'."

"I had three sets of conversations with directors who all wanted to resign," Carolus said.  

She said when one member of the board handed her a letter of resignation she communicated with Gigaba that people were concerned and "quite agitated" and requested the guarantee letter. 

However, two days after she met with Gigaba, there was an article in the Business Day which stated that the former minister wrote to Speaker of Parliament indicating that the annual general meeting of SAA had been postponed because its financial statements were not in order.   

"Which was completely untrue and also lawfully quite irresponsible," Carolus said.  

'Checkmate'

She said Gigaba had the financials for over a month and by then the board of directors were "hopping mad".  

"I felt that the minister had checkmated me [for him] to be writing to Parliament," she said.   

She said following this she told the board that she was resigning and that she could not trust Gigaba. 

Carolus also described the difference in approach between former minister Barbara Hogan and Gigaba. 

"It was chalk and cheese," she said.  

"The centrality of it all is about the fact that, here were two ministers, one of whom understood, in very simple terms, the difference in the roles between shareholder, board and management. Minister Hogan would never ask the board to do something that's a management matter.

"Minister Hogan was absolutely scrupulous, and quite simple. When you dealt with her, she raised her displeasure, and she did on occasion. 

"So, from a governance point of view, a huge difference. It was shocking where SAA ended up under (former) minister Gigaba," she added.    

Read more on:    saa  |  malusi gigaba  |  cheryl carolus  |  state capture inquiry
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