PROFILE: 5 things to know about SAA's new interim head Zuks Ramasia

South African Airways announced on Friday that Zuks Ramasia would take over as interim group CEO of the embattled national carrier.

This came nearly a week after outgoing group CEO Vuyani Jarana’s resignation was confirmed by flag carrier. In his four-page resignation letter, Jarana highlighted several issues at the state-owned enterprise that contributed to his decision to leave, including misgivings about whether government would provide adequate finances for a turnaround strategy.

SAA, in a statement, said Ramasia would start as the acting chief executive officer this week. Jarana, who joined SAA in 2017, will provide "transitional support to the board and management". 

But who is Ramasia? Here are five things you need to know about her as she takes the reins:

What she's walking into

Ramasia comes in as interim CEO at a time after Jarana’s resignation raised concerns about government’s commitment to giving the national carrier the financial support it says it needs to turn itself around.

Previous forms of support have gone towards operations with no end in sight to the carrier's economic crisis.

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Ramasia has been serving as SAA's group executive for operations.

In this position she had to deal hands-on with matters of an operational nature at SAA, including negotiating with pilots and dealing with the pilot licensing imbroglio that hit SAA last year, where it was revealed that pilot William Chandler flew flights for 20 years with a fake license.

In October, SAA got R5bn for the 2019/20 year from a combination of government guaranteed debt and recapitalisation.

The ongoing financial lifelines also come at a time when discussions about government ownership of large companies have become more acerbic, to the point of questioning if government needs to fully own SAA.

Advocating for women in aviation

In an interview with Africa In Fact in 2017, Ramasia said there remained barriers in the aviation industry that prevented women from realising their full potential.

She said decisions at the highest level of the industry were still determined by men and that women who have secured a foothold in the industry should support those entering the field after them.

Stand-offs with unions

The South African Cabin Crew Association took the SAA to court in 2017. Ramasia, as a board member at the time, was among the respondents.

The association took the board to court for alleged "theft and contravening the Public Finance Management Act" in 2017, after the national carrier fired four employees. The association claimed these employees were targeted for whistleblowing.

The airline said the dismissed employees were dismissed for "grossly inappropriate" comments on social media. It is not known to the association where the charges currently stand, and SAA has not commented on the matter.

The union called for Jarana to stay on as group CEO earlier this week.

Education and experience

Ramasia was previously non-executive director for aviation coordinating services at OR Tambo International Airport.

She has an honours degree in human resources development from the University of Johannesburg, a bachelor’s degree in English and psychology from Vista University, and a secondary teacher’s diploma from the University of the Transkei.

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