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Workers unions at South African Airways (SAA) have reacted with shock that the government has relinquished control of the struggling airline to a private company.
Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan announced today the Takatso consortium as the preferred strategic equity partner for SAA after 19 months of uncertainty.
Gordhan said that the government has agreed to black-owned Takatso Consortium owning a 51 percent stake while the government will retain 49 percent of the restructured airline.
Takatso is a new consortium comprising fund manager Harith General Partners and aviation group Global Airways.
Takatso is expected to pump in more than R3 billion into relaunching SAA following the conclusion of its business rescue process.
However, the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) and SA Cabin Crew Association (Sacca) said they had not been consulted.
In a brief response, Numsa spokesperson Phakamile Hlubi-Majola said the unions had found out through the media about this equity partner.
“As unions, we are finding out through the media about this equity partner,” Hlubi-Majola said.
“We have been asking since last year for the Department of Public Enterprises (DPE) to be transparent about the process to appoint an equity partner for the sake of the future of SAA, but they refused to disclose.”
Gordhan said the objective of the partnership with the private sector was to re-launch a flexible, agile airline that will not be dependent on the fiscus.
“The government will not be putting any more money into the new airline,” he said.
Gordhan said Takatso will prioritise the training and promotion of qualified black pilots as part of a non-racial team of qualified men and women.
The transaction will go through the approval process once the due diligence exercise is completed and the definitive sale and purchase agreement is concluded.
The unions had been fearing for a long time that SAA would be privatised after 3 500 employees were laid off during the business rescue process.
Hlubi-Majola said SAA collapsed through mismanagement and rampant corruption which happened under Gordhan’s watch.
She said transparency was a key factor in ensuring good governance and in ensuring that the same problems which brought down SAA were not repeated.
“SAA collapsed under the watch of Pravin Gordhan. Workers went for months without salaries, during a pandemic,” she said.
“We cannot stress enough the level of suffering by ordinary workers that took place, in order for SAA to be restructured.
“Going forward, if this SAA is to succeed, there can be no repetition of the past. And DPE should start by being transparent and accountable to demonstrate that indeed, things have changed.”