Brian Sokutu
Senior Print Journalist
3 minute read
22 Jun 2021
2:46 pm

Harith denies involvement in SA Express deal

Brian Sokutu

The latest SA Express storm is a charge by Fly Sax that Harith backtracked on a key commitment letter given in return for a majority stake in the deal. 

Picture: iStock

Leading Pan African infrastructure investor Harith General Partners has shrugged off allegations of having backtracked from a deal involving the acquisition of SAA sister company SA Express.

Harith is part of the Takatso Consortium that recently acquired a 51% controlling stake in national carrier SAA.

Takatso has pledged to relaunch SAA as an iconic South African brand – a viable, sustainable, scalable and agile airline with which to attract the best local talent in the industry.

ALSO READ: Black consortium takes 51% of SAA, government holds 49%

Harith ‘backtracked’ on commitment letter

At the centre of the latest SA Express storm is a charge by Fly Sax, a consortium of ex-employees said to be the preferred bidder for SA Express – currently facing liquidation – that Harith gave an undertaking to be part of the acquisition.

According to Fly Sax spokesperson Thabsile Sikakane, Harith, represented by Tshepo Mahloele and Patuxolo Nodada’s Siga Express, backtracked on a key commitment letter given to Fly Sax in return for a majority stake in the SA Express deal.

“While the letter of commitment is still valid until 30th June 2021, the provisional liquidators have been accusing Fly Sax of non-performance – unfair because Fly Sax is a consortium of ex-employees who have no financial resources,” Sikakane said.

“We submitted the bid with plans to raise funds through equity crowdfunding. But due to the letter of commitment from Harith General Partners, we chose to take the private funding option.

“We will not accept this backtracking by Harith General Partners, should the provisional liquidators hold Fly Sax Pty responsible for the first binding offer. Fly Sax has fought very hard for this airline to be saved and what has happened to us is very painful.

“We should not be denied the opportunity to take SAX to the sky again because of opportunistic businessmen. As the preferred bidder for SA Express we were astounded to hear of the SAA acquisition by Harith General Partners.”

ALSO READ: SA Express crowdfunding bid put on ice, but not completely off the table

In a lawyer’s letter dated 22 January 2021 from G Nkomo Attorneys, confirmation was made to the provisional liquidators of SA Express by strategic investment group Siga Express concluding an agreement with Fly Sax.

The letter was given as “a firm undertaking” to provide security for the payment of the purchase price for SA Express in the amount of R26 million.

Denying involvement

Harith head of business development and stakeholder management Khaya Buthelezi denied Harith’s involvement in the SA Express deal.

“We were approached for the SA Express opportunity, but after a thorough assessment we decided not to pursue it. But Siga Express is still pursuing the opportunity,” Buthelezi said.

“Through his lawyer, Mr Nodada has confirmed advising that the deal was still on and Siga Express has until 30 June 2021 to act. As of 9 March 2021, Harith General Partners said it was no longer participating in this transaction.”

Harith, Buthelezi said, did not enter into any written agreement with Fly Sax for the SA Express acquisition.

In April, the Pretoria high court ruled in favour of Numsa’s urgent application for the granting of an extension of SA Express’s provisional liquidation until 28 July 2021.

Numsa has been in the forefront of opposing the airline’s final liquidation.