Former SAA Chairperson Cheryl Carlous testifying at the state capture inquiry. Picture: Nokuthula Mbatha/AfricanNewsAgency/ANA

Johannesburg - The former board chairperson of South African Airways (SAA) Cheryl Carolus says the board had a strained relationship with then public enterprises minister Malusi Gigaba who accused the board of being incompetent. 

Carolus told the Zondo commission on Wednesday that Gigaba undermined the SAA board and spoke badly about it on public platforms. 

She said this put a strain on the board's relationship with the minister. 

The ANC stalwart served as chairperson of SAA between 2009 and 2012 and was appointed by Gigaba’s predecessor Barabara Hogan. 

She said the Gigaba would address events like the Cape Town press club and berate the board publicly. 

“The minister would at various public platforms make utterances which we [thought] were unfair. He would question the competence of the board and sometimes would misrepresent some facts. He would say SAA had no strategy and vision. It is impossible for a state-owned entity not to have a strategy. It is incorrect for him to say that,” she said. 

“Secondly, the minister chose to generally do this in outside forums. It was a awkward position and we did feel offended as we were trying to build confidence in the market and the competence of the board is one of the issues considered in terms of risk and would impact the availability of money (for the airline),” said Carolus. 

She said Gigaba’s behaviour was strange as he would compliment the board in private yet speak badly about them in public. 

“He would accuse us of being unpatriotic and uncaring. On occasions where we met the minister, he would speak highly of our capabilities and his confidence. Some people were very concerned about it. We did feel very aggrieved as it questioned the capability of the board,” said Carolus. 

The struggle stalwart said when the board took over at SAA, the airline was in a mess and they had to come up with a new strategy to save the airline. 

“When we came in there was no CEO, there was an acting CEO at the time. We set about acting on that. We were advised to lay criminal charges for the money that was misappropriated. There was a fragmented management team that was in place at SAA. Everybody was in acting positions when we arrived. Many of those people were not suitably qualified to work in those positions,” she said. 

Carolus eventually resigned from the board in 2012 along with other board members citing a strained relationship with Gigaba. 

The inquiry continues.

* Read more on the #StateCaptureInquiry here .

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