SAA chief strategy officer believed to have resigned over 'dysfunctional' board

Fedor Selivanov /

Johannesburg - South African Airways could not immediately confirm on Friday night whether its chief strategy officer Barry Parsons had resigned from the airline and the airline's board of technical directors. 

In what appears to be his resignation letter to acting CEO Nico Bezuidenhout, Parsons hit out at the board, saying he has "lost all confidence in the board to lead and progress the business". The letter, which News24 has seen, is dated Friday, July 24. He also says the board is "dysfunctional" and that its integrity has been "compromised".

However, SAA spokesperson Tlali Tlali could not confirm his resignation late on Friday night.

"Given the time at which the enquiry is received, I am not able to guarantee that we will respond today [Friday]. We, however, commit to responding as soon as we are reasonably able to do so," SAA spokeperson Tlali Tlali told News24.

In the letter, Parsons said he felt he had made a strong contribution to SAA, especially since it faced potential insolvency in 2014, and then returned to "relative stability".

"Unfortunately, I have lost all confidence in the board to lead and progress the business, and when I look at the 2015 corporate plan and the priorities the board seem to have, since the plan was submitted on 30 April 2014, I cannot reconcile the two."

According to a report by BDlive earlier this month, the airline's 2015 corporate plan looked at saving more than R900m over three years through staff reductions.

Parsons went on to say in the letter that central to his decision were major interventions in the supply chain by individual non-executive directors. These things included fuel, debt finance and other services like ground handling, which were "thinly veiled as additional transformation requirements".

'Compromising the board's integrity'

"My other concern is the SAA Technical - AAR Corporation 'strategic partnership' and the disgraceful lack of transparency, to both the SAA Technical board and the SAA board...  triggered my resignation from the SAA Technical board earlier today [Friday]."

AAR is a global aerospace and defence company.

SAA said on June 16 that SAA Technical had signed a memorandum of understanding with AAR to "establish a joint venture partnership to reduce costs and increase operational efficiencies of the airline's fleet".

"The joint venture will also focus on growing... [SAA Technical's] MRO [Maintenance, repair and operations] services to third-party customers/airlines across the continent," it said at the time.

Parsons said in his letter that while there were directors on the board who had the best interests of the company at heart and were diligent in discharging their "fiduciary duties", there were others who "compromised the board's integrity".

"Unfortunately there are others who are not [diligent] and that has compromised the board's integrity and rendered it dysfunctional.

"There are good people at SAA and I think they would be absolutely appalled if they were aware what transpires at the board and, for me, the shambolic board 'meeting' of July 10 was the last straw, and I left that day realising the board in its current form and constitution will not move the business forward.

"I wish SAA well, however continued employment here eventually became a reputational matter and it is a simple decision to submit my resignation and move on."

In what appears to be a separate resignation letter to the SAA Technical board, Parsons said in relation to the memorandum with AAR that "there is clearly a hidden agenda somewhere in this relationship and it requires urgent independent investigation".

He said the version of the memorandum signed on June 16 was "fundamentally flawed".

Parsons said he was shocked to see the same version submitted to the board at its meeting on July 10.

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