SAA desperate for state’s R2bn cash

South African Airways in desperate need of cash infusion
South African Airways in desperate need of cash infusion

SAA is headed towards another uncomfortable payment deadline as government has yet to pay the R2 billion bailout it promised the beleaguered airline in October.

National Treasury this week confirmed to City Press’ sister publication Rapport that the money had not yet been paid, but refused to elaborate on when this would happen.

“The R2 billion in working capital will be financed in consultation with the department of public works and the business rescue practitioner,” said a spokesperson.

“More details will be made available at a later stage.”

Government promised to make R2 billion available in cash and to give the airline an additional R2 billion worth of support in the form of guarantees.

Responding to questions, the practitioner appointed last month to take over SAA’s business rescue proceedings said that the airline could not guarantee the payment of this month’s salaries.

“It is our aim to pay salaries, subject to financing,” read a message sent to Rapport.

At a creditors’ meeting on December 20, Les Matuson, the head business rescue practitioner for the airline, undertook to make the business rescue plan available by no later than the end of next month. However, it is expected that the plan could be finalised by February 14.

Derek Mans, who represents trade union Solidarity at SAA, said the union presented its own rescue plan to Matuson and was confident that elements of the plan would be incorporated into the final plan.

Solidarity had previously launched an application in the Pretoria High Court to have SAA placed under business rescue. However, shortly after its papers were filed, the airline’s board of directors caved in and passed a resolution to go into voluntary business rescue.

Read: SAA is flat broke, but can be saved

“We placed special emphasis on the operational challenges at SAA and on the fact that there are no aviation experts at executive level,” said Mans.

Solidarity has also insisted that those individuals who have been complicit in the airline’s decline be held accountable, and that a skills audit be conducted at all levels to ensure that competent people are in the right posts.

It is understood that such an audit has been in the pipeline for some time, but it has yet to be carried out.

Meanwhile, SAA boasted in a press statement last week that a study had named it one of the top 10 airlines in Africa and the Middle East when it came to scheduled departure times.

Cirium, the international research company that conducted the study, classified all flights that leave within 15 minutes of their scheduled departure time as “on time”.

Oman Air took first place in the Africa-Middle East category.

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