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By Hein Kaiser

Journalist


Mango cleared for takeoff – again

Mango's sale saga reaches a fruitful conclusion as Gordhan's legal hurdles are swept aside.


Low-cost airline Mango can finally be sold. The Supreme Court of Appeal yesterday rejected Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan’s last-ditch attempt to scupper its sale.

It’s been a seven-month court battle that saw business rescue practitioner Sipho Sono and the potential buyers of Mango emerge as victors.

Disappointed it took so long

Sono, whose steady pair of hands steered Mango through business rescue since mid-2021, said he was disappointed it had taken so long to get to this point.

“The decision to sell Mango was SAA’s (South African Airways) in the first place. I’m relieved the Supreme Court of Appeal has dismissed the application, which paves the way for us to rescue the airline unhindered,” he said.

In September last year, Gordhan delayed the approval of Mango’s sale by not deciding on its disposal within the prescribed 30 days as stipulated in the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA).

‘Irrational, unlawful and uncontitutional’

At the time, Acting Judge AH Phooko of the High Court in Pretoria described the minister’s behaviour as “irrational, unlawful and unconstitutional”. Gordhan initially dug in his heels because he felt he had not received sufficient information from Sono.

ALSO READ: Gordhan’s exit sparks hope for Mango’s sale – BRP

This ruling compelled Gordhan to sign off on the deal within the 30 days of its submission to his office or forfeit influence.

But he delayed the matter further by applying for leave to appeal – and lost again. Gordhan then sought a favourable outcome in the Supreme Court of Appeal. That application didn’t go well for him either.

“Basically, there’s not much the minister can do,” said Sono.

“The PFMA section 54(3) deeming provision [the 30-day window] kicked in and this was deemed to have approved the application.

“Even if he were to petition the Constitutional Court, it would be academic as courts cannot alter the operation of law. We will now move with speed to implement.”

Two major blows for Gordhan

Gordhan had two major blows this week. First, the Takatso deal to buy SAA was swept off the table. This was followed by the Supreme Court of Appeal dismissal with costs.

ALSO READ: Mango sale to forge head despite Gordhan’s efforts

A former Mango pilot said there can finally be a new chapter for the airline, away from the clutches of SAA.

“Public enterprises cost Mango employees their livelihoods. In many cases, it shattered hopes of a revived airline.

“There has always been something special about the orange bird. We all felt it and all fought for it until we could not afford it anymore. I take my hat off to Sono for slaying the dragon,” the pilot said.

After last year’s high court ruling, Alf Lees of the Democratic Alliance (DA) called for Gordhan’s firing or retiring.

“He has failed at SAA, Eskom and every other state-owned company under his watch. Yet somehow, he considers himself above the law,” said Lees.

“This judgment should bring him down to earth a little. It’s time he retires on the back of a shameful legacy.

ALSO READ: Gordhan ‘the weakest link in the state-owned enterprise value chain’

“Let’s hope he does not block Mango’s sale as a knee-jerk, vindictive response to the ruling,” he added.

Mango can be sold and resuscitated

Yesterday’s ruling means that Mango can now be sold and resuscitated by Ubuntu Air Services, a partnership between Randburg-based DG Capital and Africa Stay.

The successful bid partnership was revealed in papers filed in court last month.

Africa Stay is not new to Mango and its operations.

It collaborated with the airline to launch the carrier’s first international operation between Johannesburg and Zanzibar 12 years ago.

Africa Stay is also one of South Africa’s largest outbound tour operators.

ALSO READ: Gordhan will not be ‘bullied’ into rushing sale of Mango