File picture: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters - SAA say that they will still manage to pay their staff despite financial issues.

JOHANNESBURG - The SAA’s appearance in Parliament yesterday (FRI) came as Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba warned the airline it would not get “free money” from the state to stay afloat.

The cash crisis has led to reports it was so broke it would not be able to pay its staff. The airline needs a multi-billion rand rescue package from the state to stay afloat.

Despite the financial crisis, acting Chief Executive Officer Musa Zwane and Chief Financial Officer Phumeza Nhantsi assured MPs the airline would be able to meet their financial obligations and pay staff salaries.

Zwane said various cost-cutting measures had been put in place to bring financial stability to the airline.
But MPs said the cash crisis has reached a point where there was no money to pay staff at the end of the month.

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Alf Lees of the DA said the financial reports they had seen showed the airline would not pay staff salaries and its suppliers.

Nhantsi admitted they did not pay some of their suppliers at the end of July. However, they would ensure they pay staff salaries and would settle outstanding debt with the suppliers if they were given an extension on their loans.

Nhantsi would not say how much was outstanding to the suppliers and what their monthly salary bill was. He said they were talking to their lenders to ensure that the money due at the end of September is not recalled.

He said if they extend their loans with the lenders they would be able to pay staff salaries and suppliers. In addition, they expect a financial bailout from the state.

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“Will we be able to pay salaries and suppliers, we are making arrangements with the suppliers. Yes, we will be able to pay them,” said Nhantsi.

She said they have more than 20 suppliers they need to pay. “Other arrangements we have made with the suppliers is not to pay them a lump sum, but pay them on a weekly basis so that we don’t double or triple the debt,” she said.

Gigaba said there were many things they were working on to get the national carrier out of financial trouble, including cutting costs. 

He said the newly appointed CEO Vuyani Jarana, who was an executive at Vodacom, would work with the board and management to turn around the financial woes of the airline.