An SAA check-in desk at Cape Town International Airport. Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA)

Johannesburg - The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa and the South African Cabin Crew Association have expressed concern over developments at the national carrier, SAA. 

In a joint statement, Numsa and Sacca said the business rescue efforts at the airline were being sabotaged following developments on Tuesday, that the national career had cancelled a number of flights. 

“The Business Rescue Practitioner in our engagement with him last week Wednesday made it very clear that failure to provide operational capital of R2 billion for SAA will mean that it will be facing liquidation.

“As NUMSA and SACCA we have warned previously that government’s voluntary business rescue is nothing more than liquidation disguised as business rescue and we have unfortunately been proven correct,” they said in a statement. 

The two organisations said despite SAA management insisting that the flight cancellations had nothing to do with the national airline's financial crisis, they found it difficult to accept the explanation. 

“We are enduring business rescue of SAA today because government, the shareholder, refused to commit to a turnaround strategy for SAA, and the board failed to ensure it was implemented, thus leading to the eventual collapse of the airline,” they said in the statement. 

SAA on Monday, assured its customers and stakeholders that flights to all its destinations continue as normal. But on Tuesday, the airline cancelled upto 19 domestic and international flights. 

GOVT FAILURE

Numsa and Sacca said the turnaround strategy devised by Vuyani Jarana, who resigned as group chief executive at the airline last year, was a “perfectly viable plan” which would have restored SAA to long term sustainability and made it viable, they said. 

“But more importantly, it was designed to ensure that SAA was no longer dependent on bailouts and on the taxpayer,” they said. 

Numsa and Sacca said the government’s refusal to avail the money to help the airline was an attempt to collapse the airline.

“This is deliberate so that rescuing SAA will be impossible, in order to collapse the airline so that it can be liquidated and sold to the private sector. “It is our firm belief that they are deliberately sabotaging the business rescue process.

“Failure by government to provide funding capital for SAA - an example of gross negligence.

“We are convinced that the Department of Public Enterprises together with Treasury are the ones driving this agenda,” they said.

Numsa and Sacca said Treasury should have availed the R2bn once a decision was announced in December to put the airline under business rescue. 

“Their failure to do so is at best is an example of gross negligence. We have consistently said that both these ministers are not committed to saving SAA and make it viable,” they said referring to finance and public enterprises ministers, Tito Mboweni and Pravin Gordhan respectively. 

“Gordhan and Mboweni have gone out of their way to undermine and devalue the brand and reputation of the airline. 

“Minister Gordhan went to New York last year and made a statement that SAA is not too big to fail, thus leaving global trade partners and creditors speculating about the future existence of SAA. 

“The pair has consistently repeated their support for the privatization or the sale of SAA.

Their reckless utterances caused commercial ticketing partners and insurance underwriters to withdraw their support for SAA,” they said. 

UNDERMINE

Numsa and Sacca also said the sale of SAA planes was a decision by the board which was undermining the business rescue process. 

“This is a questionable decision which in our view requires an independent investigation to establish if proper processes were followed to allow such a sale to take place. 

“We are justified in our suspicion that their goal is to leave SAA a shell so that liquidation of the airline is the only option available for the airline.

“Their actions are the reasons why we continue to call for the immediate removal of the board because they are part of the reason that SAA has collapsed. 

“They cannot be trusted, and they have demonstrated that they have no appetite to implement any turnaround or business rescue strategy,” they said. 

GORDHAN 

Numsa and Sacca said Gordhan had to go, saying he was responsible for the mess at SAA since 2015, when he was still finance minister.

“As far back as 2015 Pravin has had the opportunity to intervene in SAA’s biggest cost driver which is the bloated, mostly corrupt procurement spend of R25 billion per annum which has been exposed in various forensic reports as being largely the result of corruption and mismanagement. 

“But he has done absolutely nothing. Gordhan should also be removed because as minister he has clearly failed to secure and safeguard the future of our SOEs, Denel, SAA and Eskom are all in crisis and this has deepened under his leadership. 

“As we speak SA Express is now also facing business rescue. All his solutions seem geared towards privatization of these entities instead of turning them around for the long term, saving jobs and contributing meaningfully to economic growth, and dealing decisively with the rot and corruption which brought them to the point of collapse”. 

FIGHT 

Numsa and Sacca said they would fight on to save the business rescue process of SAA.

They also called on the public to support them in their fight to keep the airline in the skies.

“We are urging members of the public, working class formations, and all Left leaning organizations to join us in this battle and to support our turnaround strategy for the airline. “We are grateful for the support of political formations such as the SRWP, the EFF, SAFTU and the Land Party in our struggle and as a result we made significant gains. 

“Ultimately they recognize that the attack on SAA is an attack on the working class. The battle is far from over. We cannot allow our SOE’s to be deliberately destroyed by members of the Capitalist ANC elite who are pursuing factional agendas and collapsing our SOE’s and crippling our economy at the same time, in order to enrich themselves at our expense”.

Numsa and Sacca said they would be presenting a turnaround strategy to the business rescue practictioner.

“It includes a plan to address the losses made in international business by proposing commercial joint-venture agreements with companies such as Ethiopian Airlines and Air Mauritius. 

“It also includes proposals for a joint venture agreement between SAAT and Lufthansa or a similar type of organization. It focuses on ways to optimize on SAA’s strengths in order to reposition itself for the future,” they said.

Numsa and Sacca said if SAA went under, more than 10 000 jobs would be shed.

“This situation will no doubt worsen the socio-economic conditions in our country, by aggravating poverty, unemployment and inequality. We have no choice but to fight with all our might to defend the business rescue process if we have any hope of saving SAA from destruction”. 

IOL