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SAA’s financial woes deepened with the national airline suffering a loss of R734 million last month, just two months into the start of the new financial year in addition to losses of R1.5bn recorded last year and R4.5bn in the previous financial year.

The nightmares became more pronounced in Parliament yesterday when board members failed to attend chairperson Dudu Myeni’s meeting with the standing committee on finance - besides chief financial officer Phumeza Nhantsi. SAA was also on the ropes over the R9bn in loans with the lenders demanding repayment by Friday.

However, National Treasury said the loans would be extended although there was a financial institution that wanted its loan paid by Friday. Reports claimed that Standard Chartered Bank, the British division of Standard Bank, wanted its full amount of R2.3bn to be settled at the end of the month. But Treasury director- general Dondo Mogajane said discussions were ongoing. They had options available and many lenders were open to the idea of rolling over the loans.

“We are engaging with them and we are confident,” he said.

Myeni said they were in talks with a lender over the loan but would not disclose which one. However, it was believed to be Standard Chartered. She assured salaries would be paid to SAA employees despite MPs’ concerns about the financial status of the national carrier. Alf Lees of the DA said SAA lost R734m last month. This was just the start of the new financial year.

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Lees said the airline was in a state of financial chaos and called on the loans to be made public. He said he was still concerned whether SAA would meet the Friday deadline, charging it was on the verge of bankruptcy and could grind to a halt. Thandi Tobias-Pokolo of the ANC said they would not defend any state-owned entity (SOE) that was not doing well. She said that SOEs must get their businesses back on track. Nhantsi told the committee the board was in the process of fixing its debt portfolio.

“We are working on a solution to ensure the loans are extended,” Nhantsi assured MPs.

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