Cape Town - Former SAA board members and employees who have left the airline, but are implicated in the Special Investigating Unit’s investigations and findings, will be pursued and face civil litigation.
The SIU head, advocate Andy Mothibi, said this during a briefing to Parliament’s standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) on the SIU’s inquiries into corruption, maladministration and malfeasance at SAA.
Back in 2019, SAA reached out to the SIU, indicating that the airline wanted assistance in investigating possible corruption and other irregularities. During a briefing to the committee in November last year, the SIU said it was probing issues concerning at least 23 contracts at SAA.
These ranged from dodgy jet fuel purchases and aircraft leases to board and staff corruption.
On Tuesday Mothibi said that from their investigations so far, it appeared as though most of those to which evidence of wrongdoing pointed, had by and large left the airline.
“We will pursue these individuals if there’s any evidence of criminality involving them, and we’ll also pursue them if we institute civil litigation, so that they are cited as respondents in the recovery process. We will not let them just get away with it.”
Mothibi, however, said progress had been slow because, with regard to civil litigation, the jurisdiction of the SIU and its Special Tribunal had been challenged at the Supreme Court of Appeal, and even at the Constitutional Court.
However, he said that in a recent judgment the Constitutional Court had ruled in the SIU’s favour, and said the Special Tribunal had the jurisdiction over these cases, and that now progress would be quicker.
With regard to new allegations concerning the sale of SAA shares to the Takatso Consortium, Mothibi said the SIU was processing them to ensure that these fell within their mandate before preparing any proclamation.
Scopa also received status updates from SAA management and the Department of Public Enterprises since the last meeting with the committee in November last year.
SAA chief executive John Lamola said the airline was planning to acquire six new aircraft for its fleet, and in the past financial year had grown from serving eight destinations to 12.
He said the national carrier was planning to add new routes to its timetable by December this year.
Responding to questions from committee member Sakhumzi Somyo (ANC) about the airline’s acquisition of new aircraft, Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan said SAA did not have the cash to buy six new aircraft, so would be leasing them.
Gordhan said had the crunch for SAA not come as it did during the pandemic, the airline would have been competitive today.
“We had a choice. To liquidate SAA, sell it in all its different parts, or save it and make it work. We’re trying to make it work. This (crunch) was happening in the middle of the pandemic. It wasn’t happening in a normal environment, something we tend to actually forget.”