SA Express staff make daring bid to buy the airline to save their jobs
JOHANNESBURG – Desperate SA Express employees have made a daring attempt to save hundreds of their jobs with an ambitious bid to buy the state-owned airline and prevent it from final liquidation.
SA Express workers yesterday said they had incorporated a special purpose vehicle (SPV) to bid for the airline's assets, subject to prevailing terms and conditions. They said the SPV would be anchored by a private investor and owned by a public limited company, Fly SAX, with SA Express’s 691 employees as the owners.
Fly SAX spokesperson Thabsile Sikakane said the government had failed SA Express employees, as they have been without jobs and have not been paid since February.
“It is our right to have a decent job with decent pay that would lift us back into the workforce,” Sikakane said.
“Our government has not only subjected workers to poverty, but has also killed their morale.”
SA Express flights have been grounded since March 18, after the company was placed in business rescue in February.
Last week, the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria granted an extension for its final liquidation to October 28 after the airline's business rescue rescuers failed to raise funds to save the regional airline.
SA Express employees have been on an equity crowdfunding platform Uprise.Africa since August to raise the capital needed to save the airline, which they estimated was worth at least R1.5 billion.
Sikakane could not be drawn into how much they were bidding for SA Express or how they were raising capital, but emphasised that the proposed funding model would be to vest ownership in the workers.
She said the capital raised would be structured through an equity funding model to finance and scale employee ownership conversions in a worker-centric and transformative way.
Sikakane said the benefit of this funding model was the possibility of SA Express being positioned to resume operations and result in saving a significant number of jobs.
Liquidation would result with the sale of all SA Express assets for maximum value with the proceeds shared among the company's creditors.
“South Africa will see a genuine broad-based employee ownership plan which will be privately held and publicly traded,” she said. “It will be founded on pro-public, democratic principles, and a fundamental framework of democratic ownership.”
She said although the proposed intervention may not be a silver bullet to save SA Express, it held real potential, particularly if the government was supportive.
The Department of Public Enterprises (DPE) has so far remained obtuse to the plight of SA Express workers, choosing to allow the courts to conclude the liquidation process.
The DPE spokesperson Sam Mkokeli and liquidator Aviwe Ndyamara were not immediately available to comment on the bid.