A Mango Airlines aeroplane docked on the tarmac at King Shake Airport. Picture: Karen Sandison/African News Agency(ANA)

JOHANNESBURG – Struggling low-cost airline Mango allegedly paid R1 million to a recruitment agency to find a permanent chief executive, but ended up appointing Marelize Labuschagne in an acting capacity after she threatened to resign because she was not consulted.

Business Report can today reveal that Mango paid Talent Africa to search for Nico Bezuidenhout’s permanent replacement in 2016, but the recruitment process was halted after Labuschagne threatened to quit.

Insiders claim that the airline identified a probable replacement among seven shortlisted candidates, but later retracted after Labuschagne threatened to leave. On Friday, Mango announced that it had appointed Labuschagne as acting chief executive.

Labuschagne previously served as the airline’s chief financial officer. The airline also appointed Noelan Rungasamy as general manager of operations, Graham Ross to head the department for fleet and technical and Cindy Ross as head of the department of employee relations. All the appointments were with immediate effect.

“I want to confirm that Marelize Labuschagne has been appointed as the acting chief executive of Mango Airlines and that the process to appoint a permanent chief executive is still ongoing,” a company spokesperson said.

However, insiders claimed that Mango had nothing to show for the recruitment process despite paying the money. “A previous recruitment process cost R1m in taxpayer money. Why do they have to do it again? Is it to bring somebody that they have selected without a process?” said one.

Mango is a subsidiary of loss-making national carrier SAA.

Bezuidenhout left Mango to join Fastjet in July 2016. He was replaced by Nico Vlok in August 2016 as acting chief executive after serving as head of operations.

In emails seen by Business Report, Labuschagne said she had stopped the appointment of the candidate as no governance process was followed. She said she also felt that her reputation had been attacked.

In one, Labuschagne resigned, saying she had not been consulted on major decisions and that she had been blamed for the losses at the company. The low-cost airline reportedly posted a R37m loss in the 2015-16 financial year, a reversal from the R38m profit in the previous financial year.

“It has come to a point where my reputation is being damaged by the chairperson addressing the rest of the management team of Mango and making it clear that the chief financial officer (CFO) is single-handedly responsible for Mango not being in a profitable position.” She also flagged that the relationship between her and Vlok had become uncontrollable.

“There is currently a breakdown in trust between the CFO and that is not healthy for Mango as an operation. Therefore, I do believe it would be best for Mango that I should rather move on in my career.”

On Friday she said Vlok had left very big shoes to fill.

“It is an absolute honour to fill this role.”

Mango said in an emailed statement to Businness Report, "Following the announcement that acting CEO Nic Vlok retired after 12 years with Mango Airlines, Marelize Labuschagne was appointed in the interim to fill the position. Labuschagne’s appointment as acting CEO was approved by the Mango executive board while the recruitment position is underway to appoint a permanent CEO for the airline."

BUSINESS REPORT