The ANC has called on Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan to “hit the ground running” and intervene in the leadership crisis at state airline South African Airways (SAA).
This followed the resignation of the airline’s fifth chief executive since 2010. Vuyani Jarana’s four-page resignation letter, published yesterday, suggested bureaucracy and political interference prevented him from carrying out his mandate, which included the implementation of a R22 billion turnaround strategy.
ANC spokesperson Pule Mabe said the party was expecting Gordhan to pay “special attention to the issues of leadership and stability in our national carrier”.
According to Gordhan’s spokesperson, Adrian Lackay, Jarana’s resignation was a matter for the board of SAA to deal with.
In Jarana’s scathing letter, he stops short of blaming Gordhan and National Treasury for being behind operational delays.
“It is impossible to succeed in a turnaround with the current level of bureaucracy we have to go through to implement the strategy. Currently, SAA must obtain approval of DPE [department of public enterprises] and National Treasury to implement some of the key decisions, [which] takes away the agility required for an entity in financial distress, an ICU case,” Jarana’s letter read.
He mentioned that, as part of his contract, he had requested SAA work only with National Treasury until the company’s revenue broke even, a goal projected to be reached by 2021.
The Free Market Foundation’s spokesperson, Jayne Boccaleone, suggested it was no coincidence that Jarana’s resignation came weeks after that of Eskom CEO Phakamani Hadebe – and the common denominators were Gordhan and the general practice of heavy political interference in state-owned entities (SOEs).
“I can say that Gordhan is very good, but ideologically he is a socialist and he believes in SOEs, and he believes in central control, and that is a problem,” she said. “We have always believed SAA should be privatised or closed down because the private sector can do everything it does.
“SAA brought in Jarana and we have a lot of respect for Jarana; he did a great job in telecoms, but he is not an aviation expert, and the government stakeholder was not allowing him to perform his mandate.”
The South African Airways Pilots’ Association, which was vocal about its support of Jarana’s appointment, said it would be announcing its position on the resignation today.
The Citizen understands it was planning “significant action” in response.