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SAA pilots vow to get rid of board

Board has been accused of planning sabotage.

Head of the South African Airways Pilots’ Association (Saapa) captain John Harty has been accused of plotting to sabotage a plane to discredit the black pilot flying it.

These accusations, strongly denied by Harty, are the subject of an investigation by the Directorate for Priority Crimes (Hawks), SAAPA said in a statement on Monday.

According to the statement, Harty was summoned to Douglasdale Police Station by the Hawks on Friday December 4. Harty said he was informed by Hawks officials, including two brigadiers, “that they were in possession of ‘intelligence’ that certain pilots – and namely myself – had attempted to recruit SAA technicians to tamper with the rudder system of an aircraft in order to sabotage it and thereby discredit the black pilot who’d be flying it. 

If the allegations weren’t treated with such seriousness by the Hawks I’d have laughed at the sheer absurdity of them,” Harty said.

He said as the Hawks seemingly believe this ‘intelligence’ has veracity, he would like to state that he is prepared to cooperate fully with any legally competent, objective investigation, “as there is not a single shred of evidence that will corroborate this allegation.

 This ‘intelligence’ has a whiff of intimidation. Neither I nor my association will be intimidated and forced to back down in our efforts to ensure that the SAA Board is replaced by people with aviation management expertise and that a CEO with appropriate skills and experience is appointed.”

Three weeks ago Saapa adopted a vote of no confidence in SAA Board chairperson Dudu Myeni and the non-executive directors, after Myeni reportedly said pilots were being paid too much.

Hawks spokesperson Hangwani Mulaudzi could not be reached for comment.

Saapa will be meeting again on Thursday to update its members and reassure them about concerns regarding the future of the airline. Moneyweb has been told the pilots will also discuss different options aimed at restoring proper governance at the airline, including applying for business rescue and industrial action.

Swap agreement

The above events follow the SAA board having until December 21 to implement the so-called swap agreement with Airbus that will convert an onerous purchase agreement into a lease agreement with the aircraft manufacturer.

National Treasury earlier approved the deal, that was signed by then acting CEO Nico Bezuidenhout, but the board refused to ratify it, suggesting the insertion of a local leasing agent instead.

Finance minister Nhlanhla Nene on Friday announced that he rejected this variation of the agreed upon swap transaction and warned the board against acting without Treasury approval.

In its statement, Treasury said Airbus gave SAA until December 21 to implement the deal.

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa said government is finalising the appointment of a new board at SAA to ensure good governance. The airline is currently functioning with only three interim board members and without a permanent CEO and CFO and its commercial head has been suspended.

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