Picture: Rogan Ward/Reuters/African News Agency (ANA) Archives
Picture: Rogan Ward/Reuters/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

SAA Technical irregular disposal of power units in spotlight at Zondo Commission

By Zintle Mahlati Time of article published Feb 10, 2020

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Johannesburg - The controversial and irregular disposal of ground power units (GPU) owned by the South African Airways Technical (SAAT) in 2016 took centre stage at the Zondo commission on Monday. 

On the stand was SAAT’s former head of procurement Nontsasa Memela. Memela faced tough questions on the role she played in the selling of the 12 GPU that was owned by SAAT and were sold for far less than their market worth. 

GPU are used to power-up an aircraft while it is unpowered on a runway. 

A forensic investigation which was conducted by Open Water Advanced risk solutions found that there were several irregularities in how the disposal of the units. The GPU units were sold to JM Aviation a company which awarded a multi-billion rand tender by SAAT along with a US-based aviation company AAR Corporation. 

Evidence shows that the GPUs were bought by SAAT for R800 000 per unit and when they were sold to JM Aviation. The units were sold for R248 000 each – which is far less than their worth as they were still new. 

The Sunday Independent reported at the time that after purchasing the units, JM Aviation re-sold them to Swissport, a Swiss-based aviation company, for R3.3 million. 

Memela was asked about her involvement in the disposal of the units as she was charged with the role of negotiating the sale after it was approved by the board. 

She was asked by the commission’s evidence leader Advocate Kate Hofmeyr and commission chairperson Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo on whether she had given the go-ahead for the sale. 

Memela had testified that other executives had been part of the meeting that approved the sale of the units, but affidavits filed from some of the members have disputed this. 

In a meeting with JM Aviation representatives, an offer was presented, but an email which was sent only to Memela appeared the price of R248,000 which is the same amount that the units were sold for. 

She told Zondo that she could not remember whether she had approved the amount, but said the CEO of SAAT Musa Zwane’s signature had been proof that a decision was made to approve the price. 

"To say who made the final decision would say this is the person who did. I did not have the power to accept the offer. I did not write the email to accept the price. There is no written communication expect a signed invoice. The fact that he signed means we discussed signed the invoice,” she said. 

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