SAA acting CEO goes back to Mango

SAA acting CEO Nico Bezuidenhout.
SAA acting CEO Nico Bezuidenhout.

Johannesburg - South African Airways said that Nico Bezuidenhout, its acting chief executive officer, will stand down and return to the Mango low-cost arm.

Bezuidenhout, who has been running the unprofitable state-owned carrier since November following the suspension of Monwabisi Kalawe, will move back to Mango, which he previously ran, with immediate effect, spokesperson Tlali Tlali said in a text message late on Wednesday.

While Tlali didn’t give a reason for the transfer, an internal memo circulated within SAA and obtained by Bloomberg said it’s being carried out following the completion of a turnaround programme that Bezuidenhout had led. The memo from chairperson Dudu Myeni says an update on filling the now-vacant CEO position will be provided “in due course”.

SAA, which has been surviving on government-guaranteed loans, had been working to reduce costs and improve efficiencies under Bezuidenhout. The company this year closed unprofitable routes to Beijing and Mumbai and has renegotiated airline leases and supply contracts.

SAA’s operating costs in April and May, the first two months of the carrier’s financial year, declined 14% from 12 months earlier, Bezuidenhout said on June 30. While the performance is improving, it’s too early to say that the company’s turned a corner, he said in an interview on July 7.

Bezuidenhout’s move continues a series of changes at the top of SAA in the past year. Even before Kalawe’s suspension, the airline accepted the resignation of six board members in October and appointed two new directors. More recently, Tlali confirmed this week that Barry Parsons, the company’s chief strategy officer, has resigned.

The current SAA board’s term ends on September 30 and a process to appoint a new one is under way, Phumza Macanda, a spokesperson for the National Treasury, said in an e-mailed response to questions on July 20. The Treasury took responsibility for the airline’s turnaround after it was transferred from the Department of Public Enterprises in December.

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