Takatso Consortium SAA bid coffin nailed shut by air licences

SAA planes are seen parked at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg. Additional applications for upcoming flights to Peru and other destinations would have been filed as a matter of course.

SAA planes are seen parked at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg. Additional applications for upcoming flights to Peru and other destinations would have been filed as a matter of course.

Published Mar 18, 2024


The Takatso Consortium’s application to formally take over the licence, rights and frequencies of SAA in the now botched bid for a 51% stake in the national carrier was withdrawn on Wednesday, having been slated for a hearing that before the International Air Services Council.

International Air Services Council chairperson Nomveliso Ntanjana confirmed that the hearing had been before the council for consideration.

"We got a request for a postponement on the application and we resolved to stand the matter down after we had been informed on the 13th that the applicants were requesting a postponement," Ntanjana said.

Ntanjana said the application had still been at the infancy stage, with the council at that point only having followed due process leading to the hearing.

In a Government Gazette in February, the Takatso Consortium’s application for domestic air services licences, under the Air Service Licensing Act and International Air Service Act, was meant to be heard by the new body.

The Takatso Consortium had applied for Class I (S941D), Class II (N942D),  Class III (G943D) – (Power Line Maintenance and Flipping) and Class III (G1238D , formal grants or amendments ranging from giving notice of financial stature, utilising foreign registered aircraft, power line maintenance and flipping and the use of land rights.

Proposed changes to the management plan submitted entailed Captain Hans Joachim Zeuner replacing Captain Carlos Martins as Responsible Person: Flight Operations, Peter Ladiellis replacing Joggie Zeuner as Chief Pilot and Mandy Joy Immelman replacing Ethienne Julian as Cabin Services Manager throughout all categories of management.

According to the notice, the Department of Public Enterprises (DPE) intended to sell to Takatso Aviation Proprietary Limited 51% of the total issued shares it holds in SAA, which would have included the operation of SAA’s flights from OR International Airport to Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Congo, Zimbabwe and Nigeria.

The routes included to Zambia, Mauritius, Malawi and Brazil.

Additional applications for upcoming flights to Perth and other destinations would have been filed as a matter of course.

Senior government officials in aviation maintained this week that the only option left was for the fiscus to continue cushioning SAA, particularly as it faces stiff competition against operators vying for the routes it does not have capacity to service.

"They (the government) have to (bail out SAA), there is no other option. There are a lot of guarantees on paper, a lot of assets, the current management is working hard. As long as the basics are right, SAA will fly. The new CEO is fighting hard. There were a lot of people, like Ethiopian Airways, which wanted to immediately invest R2.5 billion and code share, but diplomatic issues came up. With this Takatso thing, tell me if anyone will still want to sell SAA,“ the source said.

An aviation specialist insisted this week, amid SAA’s rebuttal of the information, that the nine aircraft were currently being serviced and updated by Air Technical, SAA’s mechanical wing.

“The A300-900s are at Air Technical, being prepared for SAA to hold its place in the routes it is reopening. Remember, if a licence or rights or frequencies are not utilised, the air licensing council has to consider giving them to others applying for them.

“So SAA is leasing back the aircraft because they have been parked since they were sold. They actually belong to those guys from the United Arab Emirates who just bought them and parked them there while they think what to do with them. This is as good an opportunity for them," the source said.

However, SAA spokesperson Vimla Maistry insisted that the airline had not re-leased the nine aircraft it sold in 2020. “We are putting it on record that we have not leased back those aircraft,” Maistry said.

Ntanjana said SAA had willingly relinquished the rights to some of the routes it held.

“We have complex engagements with all applicant operators, not just SAA. We cannot just take away their licences. We sit down and they explain themselves, we look at the revival strategy. It is rare that we just revoke a licence,” Ntanjana said.

Ntanjana confirmed that there were contestations for routes held by SAA in the Africa region, but the council, with its international counterpart, had systems upgraded by government recently to utilise online applications and move the administration of both to the South African Civil Aviation Authority.

However, the focus was on covering the basics and removing bottlenecks to applications.