A Kulula aircraft operated by Comair. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES
A Kulula aircraft operated by Comair. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES

Aviation group Comair has appointed new board members three months after shareholders raised concerns about the lack of independence among some non-executive directors.

SA’s only JSE-listed airline operator said the former director of the SA Civil Aviation Authority, Colin Jordaan, Bidvest CEO-designate Nompumelelo Madisa, chartered accountant and business consultant Farzanah Mall and an executive director of Orenda Advisory & Strategy, Tebogo Mekgoe, would join its board.

The appointments come after recent resignations of long-serving board members including former chair Piet van Hoven, Rodney Sacks and Martin Maritz. Van Hoven had been on the Comair board since 1993, while Maritz and Sacks had served on the board since 1979 and 1980 respectively.

Comair’s board came under fire from shareholders at an annual general meeting (AGM) in October over governance. At that meeting, Comair chair and Bidvest CEO Lindsay Ralphs reiterated other shareholders’ concerns about lack of independence on the Comair board.

Ralphs said at the time Comair needed “a massive shake-up”. Bidvest is the largest shareholder in the operator of Kulula and British Airways in SA with a 26.91% stake.

Van Hoven, who became a lead independent director after the AGM, resigned with immediate effect on January 9. At the AGM, Ralphs defended Van Hoven’s appointment. “My knowledge of the aviation industry is limited. It was felt that, for a period of one year, I should have the assistance of Van Hoven,” he said.

Tuesday’s announcement follows the company’s decision in December to appoint Wrenelle Stander as group CEO, in a step away from its previous joint-CEO model.

As part of that move, Comair’s other previous joint-CEO, Glenn Orsmond, became the CEO of Comair’s airline division, the company’s largest business unit. The aviation and travel group’s other business units are tourism and hospitality, training, information technology and maintenance and leasing.

The company said Naran Maharajh, chair of the audit committee and an independent nonexecutive director, had been appointed as the lead independent nonexecutive director with immediate effect.

It has also appointed Kim Gorringe as the new company secretary with effect from February 16. “Kim, who has more than 30 years’ experience in regulatory and legal affairs, risk management and stakeholder engagement in aviation, currently serves as Comair’s executive manager: governance, risk and compliance,” Comair said in a statement.

Gorringe replaced Derek Borer, who also resigned on January 9 with immediate effect.

Comair said Avsharn Bachoo would become the company’s chief information officer from February 1. “Bachoo is a technology strategist specialising in digital transformation, software engineering, data analytics, machine learning, cloud computing and enterprise architecture,” the company said.