Cape Town - The staff of Sun Air were waiting yesterday for a decision by
Jeff Radebe, the minister for public enterprises, on whether the airline
could be revived if new investments were available from the private sector.
Glenn Watson, the chairman of the Sun Air branch of the Airline Pilots
Association of South Africa, said it had offers of investment and was
preparing a business plan with the help of consultants.
Meanwhile, it emerged that Sun shareholders had paid only R20 million of the
R40 million the government was to receive for their shares when the airline
was privatised in 1997. Under a confidential agreement the second tranche
was due in February next year.
Johan Borstlap, the managing director of Sun Air, said he had not been
involved in negotiations between the shareholders and South African Airways
(SAA), which had culminated in an agreement for SAA to buy the 75 percent of
Sun Air owned by black empowerment groups and put the company into
He said he had been informed of this decision only on Wednesday last week,
when he was told the airline would stop flying last Friday. "It was the
shareholders` decision and there was nothing I could do," he said.
He would not disclose the extent of Sun`s losses but said the company could
have been turned around. It was normal to suffer losses in the first two
months of the financial year, during the low season, and recoup them later.
Borstlap said that though Sun Air had suffered from a nine-month price war,
the root cause of its troubles was the botched privatisation. He said
Rethabile, the controlling shareholder, had failed to capitalise the airline
Borstlap said the 25 percent shareholding of BA-Comair, a franchise holder
of British Airways, discouraged other international airlines from allowing
themselves to be associated closely with Sun.
Radebe, who was not involved in the privatisation of Sun Air, has not
approved the deal between the shareholders and SAA. He has refused to write
off the R20 million still owed for the shares.