CAPE TOWN - Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba on Thursday confirmed the departure of Dudu Myeni as South African Airways (SAA) board chairwoman and the appointment of six new board members, including JB Magwaza as chairman.

Gigaba said the changes would be effective from November 3, when he would hold a special meeting with the board. He said he hoped the new board, together with incoming CEO Vuyani Jarana, would return the airline to financial stability,

"The new board is well experienced and diverse and the minister encourages them to ignore the political noise and focus on the business of strengthening SAA," Gigaba added.

Other than Magwaza, the new board members are Nolitha Fakude as deputy chairwoman; businessman Geoff Rothschild; aviation expert Ahmed Bassa; accountant Tinyiko Mhlari; and businessman Martin Kingston. They replace Tryphosa Mmakeaya; Mzimkhulu Malunga; Siphile Buthelezi; Nazmeera Moola; and Gugu Sipamla.

Sources close to the minister said he had "pushed very hard" for the appointment of a new chairman, amid growing frustration from financial and political quarters with Myeni.

Myeni has headed the board since she was appointed in an acting capacity in 2012, a five-year tenure in which the national airline lost an average R3 billion a year.

Two week ago Parliament's standing committee on finance called for SAA's much-delayed annual general meeting to go ahead on November 3, as National Treasury had proposed, and added: "The current board chairperson’s term should end with the AGM. People with appropriate aviation experience and expertise should be appointed to the board, management strengthened and allegations of corruption should be tackled speedily."

Gigaba is expected to announce further financial support for SAA next week when he tables his medium-term budget policy statement after approving R5.2 billion in bailouts this year to enable the airline to pay its debts to Citibank and Standard Chartered Bank.

- AFRICAN NEWS AGENCY