Gag order: SAA says did not mislead parliament

SAA board chair Dudu Myeni says the board is concerned about executives who are leaking sensitive information to the media. Pic: Amanda Khoza.
SAA board chair Dudu Myeni says the board is concerned about executives who are leaking sensitive information to the media. Pic: Amanda Khoza.

Cape Town – South African Airways (SAA) said it stands by what it told parliament last week, after a leaked document created suspicion they misled politicians.

After alerting media in the early hours on Tuesday morning that they had obtained an interim court interdict against BDFM, Moneyweb and Media24 (which owns Fin24) over an internal document, it then alerted media at 01:00 on Wednesday that it obtained an urgent court interdict.

The purpose of the interdict was to “stop their (media) illegal and inaccurate publication of a privileged internal document of a confidential nature”.

READ: Media24 to fight SAA gag order

Andrew Trench, editor-in-chief of 24.com, said on Tuesday that the group believes that the material which is subject to the court’s gagging order is of profound public interest to taxpayers who ultimately fund SAA’s continued existence.

“We are of the opinion that this interim order will not be made final and we will oppose any move to make that so.”  

Media24's counsel has given SAA until close of business on Wednesday to abandon the interdict before it applies to have the order set aside.

Did Myeni lie to parliament?

On Tuesday, Democratic Alliance’s head of public enterprises Natasha Mazzone said it is not by chance that SAA has attempted to bury this memo and the information it contains.

“(SAA chairperson Dudu) Myeni appeared before (parliament last week), … where the existence of this memo of advice and its contents were not disclosed,” she said. “Rather, Myeni conveyed a completely contradictory story in which the airline was financially sound.”

Responding to this allegation, SAA said it “refutes and dismisses any reports that purport to portray a picture that is inconsistent with what was presented to parliament”.

READ: SAA gags media

“SAA would like to confirm that its corporate and/or financial status as presented to the parliament’s Standing Committee on Finance and Public Enterprises on 18 November 2015 has not changed,” said SAA.

“SAA stands by its presentation to parliament, the contents of which have been widely publicised in South African media over the past few days.”

Regarding the urgent court interdict, SAA said “South African law is trite on the nature and scope of legal privilege in South Africa, and the court agreed with SAA’s arguments in this regard”.  

No more comment

SAA said it has been advised by its legal advisers to refrain from making any further public statements in relation to the privileged document, and it intends to abide by this legal advice. “Media is requested to respect SAA’s decision,” it said.

“SAA will not comment any further on the Airbus swap transaction pending the response of National Treasury to SAA’s application,” it said. “Any queries in this regard should be addressed to National Treasury.”

Myeni told Fin24 in an exclusive interview on Tuesday that while the public had a right to know about certain things at SAA, the national carrier was not obliged to share everything.

"The board is concerned about the leakages, but I want to assure South Africans that SAA is not in shambles," she said. "There is a handful of people that are leaking documents into the media.

"At some point we will call a press conference and clear the air. We don’t want to mention the names of those individuals that are leaking information..."

READ: Media reports on SAA, Airbus swap deal premature - ministry

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