It has been three weeks and Mango’s 749 staff have not received their salaries
This despite staff and unions reaching out to the department of public enterprises, being stood up at a meeting by director-general Kgathatso Tlhakudi and later not receiving any semblance of response on a second attempt to meet with him or Minister Pravin Gordhan.
The airline’s executive is still unable to answer questions, SAA is mum and there is still no word from Mango’s ultimate shareholder – the government.
Last week staff pleaded with President Cyril Ramaphosa for intervention, but beyond acknowledgement of the letter, nothing has happened.
The letter, sent to the President, reads: “Mr. President, we write to you in an urgent and final attempt for intervention in the crises at South African Airways subsidiary, Mango Airlines. Whilst we write primarily regarding Mango Airlines, many similar issues will be true for the other SAA subsidiaries. We have exhausted all other avenues of communication with relevant post holders at Mango Airlines, boards of Mango Airlines and SAA and the Department of Public Enterprises. We have hit a dead end on all attempts and have been sent on many a wild goose chase.”
“The staff have no means to buy food or fend for themselves,” says chair of the Mango Pilots Association captain Jordan Butler.
“We keep getting promised by everyone that the money is coming, and every day there is another excuse why it hasn’t.”
He questions how the DPE can expect Mango staff to continue carrying the business.
“It is disingenuous and tantamount to fraud to expect people to keep coming to work.”
Watch Mango staff speak out after three weeks without getting their salaries
The letter to the President further reads that “Mango and its dedicated employees have, through their own goodwill, ensured that the company is able continue operating and relaunch after the 2020 lockdown. Mango employees, on average, are owed 6 months’ salary from the company. The company continues to operate, flying our guests and government ministers around the country, even though no one has been paid a cent in salary for June. This demonstrates the abundant goodwill for the company by its staff. A stark contrast to other government employees. Mango Airlines staff have remained calm and done their work. It is unconscionable to treat such dedicated and loyal people with the ambivalence that they are currently receiving regarding their future.”
Senior cabin crew member Jocelyn Cupido says the staff are angry.
“The staff are really up in arms right now. I know of a few individuals who are really battling.”
She adds that people do not have food to put on the table.
“I mean, this is our reality. We don’t have anything.”
She says the instruction came that “we need to ask our friends and our families for money.” She also notes that “the rhetoric we are hearing is that we have to lie waiting on the DPE to release this money and nobody has access to the DPE.”
“Many Mango staff are unable to report for duty due to lack of funds. We were also told there would be no July salaries.”
Cupido says she asked the Mango executive where revenues were being used at present.
“We are flying, we are making money. But where is this money going? How did we get to this point?”
She was told that all revenue is ploughed back into paying ACSA, Air Traffic (ATNS) and fuel. But not salaries, it seems.
The Citizen asked SAA last week whether it would provide bridging finance to Mango to enable the embattled carrier to pay salaries. At the time, it said the matter was under consideration.
“SAA has written to the Shareholder requesting an approval for SAA to provide bridging finance to Mango on the understanding that the money will be deducted from recapitalisation funds.”
“The funds gazetted for SAA subsidiaries totaling R2.7bn have not yet been paid by the Shareholder in order for SAA to recapitalize the subsidiaries.”
Mango’s Benediction Zubane said to The Citizen last week that “we are yet to receive the much-anticipated funding as expected any moment from now. We will update all stakeholders as soon as possible.”
A week later and Zabane could not provide anything more, as there was no update. SAA did not respond again when asked about Mango staff salaries.
SA Flyer Magazine editor and aviation analyst Guy Leitch noted that “the money was released by an act of parliament, which was necessary to divert the eight-hundred-or-so million rather than needed just to keep going. That should have been delivered.”
The DA’s Alf Lees explains that it may take a while.
“It will obviously take a few days for the bill to get through the system, but there shouldn’t be any delay in payment once it’s been approved, it is really will be up to national treasury to make the cash available.”
The Organisation for Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA)’s Wayne Duvenage is concerned.
“We are extremely concerned about the lack of moral obligations by the state just to the staff, it is specifically a mango in this regard for the staff to have to be treated in this way with all the uncertainty and the lack of salaries. And yet they are expected to continue to go to work in the hope that something will happen. This is just diabolical, quite frankly. It is outrageous. And in this regard, the state needs to act and act fast and decisively and give clarity to the people that are employed at Mango.”
“Passengers are buying tickets; but are we going to be there at the end of the month?” asks Butler.
“There is a crisis in the country at the moment,” he adds, “and there is a crisis in our house, at Mango.”