- UDM head Bantu Holomisa says his party will go to court to challenge the naming of the Takatso consortium as SAA's preferred strategic equity partner.
- Holomisa says the fact that the PIC commission of inquiry made findings against Harith General Partners, which forms part of the consortium, means it should not have been named as a partner for the struggling national airline.
- But Harith has denied the PIC commission made any findings of corruption against it, and has accused Holomisa of a pattern of defaming Harith with "baseless claims".
United Democratic Movement (UDM) leader Bantu Holomisa says his party is readying to lodge a legal challenge against the announcement that Harith General partners has been included in the consortium named as the preferred strategic equity partner for struggling national flag carrier SAA.
"We are challenging the involvement of one of the people – that is Harith – who was fingered in the report of the PIC commission of inquiry," said Holomisa on Monday afternoon.
The UDM leader said the upcoming challenge was not directed against the principle of a public-private partnership for SAA, but the involvement of Harith in the deal.
But Harith has hit back against the UDM leader, saying his threat of legal action is just the latest in a long line of unsubstantiated allegations.
The infrastructure investment group noted that, in March of 2020, the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria interdicted Holomisa and the UDM from making defamatory statements against Harith. The ruling was upheld on appeal.
"Despite these court losses, Holomisa continues to defame Harith with baseless claims, and we reserve our right to take further legal action in this regard," said the group in a statement.
Earlier this month, the Department of Public Enterprises announced that 51% of the national airline would be assigned to a strategic private sector partner.
The Takatso Consortium - made up of Harith General Partners and airline management firm Global Airways - was named the state's preferred partner.
"We have looked long and hard at the proposals submitted, and our clear choice of a preferred partner is the Takatso Consortium," said Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan.
Up in the air
The commission of inquiry into the PIC, sometimes referred to as the Mpati Commission after its chairperson, investigated allegations of wrongdoing at state-run asset manager the Public Investment Corporation between January and August 2019.
In its final report, handed to President Cyril Ramaphosa in December of 2019, the commission ruled that the Government Employees' Pension Fund and the PIC should jointly appoint an independent investigator to examine a fund run by Harith called the Pan African Infrastructure Development Fund.
The report recommended that the investigator determine whether all the fund's monies had been properly accounted for and that there was no overcharging or any other malpractice.
Its findings on Harith made up a small part of its 1 000-page report.
- Read Fin24's deep dive into Harith and the PIC commission report here | The PIC's complicated birth of company piloting new SAA
"What is concerning to us as the UDM is why, when you are choosing a strategic partner, you give it to this business which has already been fingered," said Holomisa, who accused the Department of Public Enterprises of not doing its homework when it announced its strategic equity partner.
He said the UDM would meeting with lawyers on Monday and seek to file initial papers in its legal challenge by the end of the week.
But Harith on Monday said the commission had not made any findings of corruption against it. It also noted that its leadership had appeared before the inquiry to provide detailed testimony.
"Following publication of the commission's report, Harith welcomed the PIC Commission's finding of no corruption on behalf of Harith or its executives," it said.
"This finding contradicted the false allegations of corruption made [by Holomisa], who produced no evidence to support the claims he made to the commission."