Four SAA executives to be investigated for misconduct

*Correction: This article previously stated that the Labour Court ordered SAA to suspend four executives, upon verification this is not correct. The Labour Court has ruled that the scope of investigations currently being conducted into the airline look into the conduct of the four SAA officials.  

Johannesburg – The Labour Court has ordered that investigations currently being conducted at South African Airways (SAA) be broadened to look into the conduct of four officials. 

The national carrier lost the court bid on Friday to block members of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) from marching at SAA and SAA Technical, the trade union said in a statement. Among the demands of the union, was to have the executives suspended pending the disciplinary process. 

“It’s no secret that SAA’s financial woes are purely as a result of looting and corruption taking place at the airline,” said acting spokesperson Phakamile Hlubi. Although SAA laid the application, it backfired, she told Fin24. “The labour court realized that our members are waging an honourable fight against corruption at the airline, and sided with us.”

The Labour Court ordered that investigations determine if the conduct of former acting CEO Musa Zwane, Head of Baseline Maintenance Chaile Makaleng, Head of Procurement Nontsasa Memela and Princess Tshabalala who also in the procurement department, was in breach of SAA's policies. 

If the findings show there has been misconduct then "appropriate action" is to be taken, the order read. Tlali Tlali, spokesperson at SAA told Fin24 at no point did the court order the suspension of the Zwane and other officials. “The statement [by Numsa] comes across in definitive terms that the court orders suspension of the CEO,” he said.

Tlali reiterated that the outcome of the investigation will determine the basis of instituting disciplinary proceedings against the individuals. "We are not in contempt of court because there is no order to suspend anyone."

There have been several forensic investigations into the state-owned enterprise (SOE) conducted by various firms including EY and Edward Nathan Sonnenbergs (ENS), which expose “wide scale looting” and corruption, said Hlubi. “SAA refused to take action against these executives despite them being implicated in these reports for alleged corruption.”

The court also ordered that SAA must appoint an independent advocate who is acceptable to both parties to chair any disciplinary hearing that may follow, said Hlubi. “This is to ensure that the airline doesn’t manipulate the process in order to protect senior managers.”

Numsa will be allowed to give evidence during the investigation.

“Since we got what we wanted through the courts, we now no longer have to resort to a strike,” said Hlubi.

The airline has suffered major losses over the years and received a R2.2bn bailout from National Treasury when one of its lenders Standard Chartered, pulled out earlier this year.

Chief financial officer Phumeza Nhantsi told Parliament on Friday that the airline is expected to continue making losses for the foreseeable future.

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