Poor planning at South African Airways (SAA) rather than a deliberate boycott appears to be the reason for the nonattendance of board members at Parliament’s finance committee meeting on Tuesday.
The ailing airline’s strategic plan and quarterly performance were up for discussion.
SAA chairwoman Dudu Myeni showed up accompanied only by chief financial officer Phumeza Nhantsi and cargo division GM Tleli Makhetha.
Committee members consequently limited discussion to the question of the R9bn loan repayment due by SAA on Friday and the payment of salaries. All other issues will be dealt with at a meeting on August 3.
There have been several newspaper reports of a rift between Myeni and board members over her failure to attend board meetings. It prompted the board to seek legal advice. Business Times has also reported that Myeni tried to involve Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba in stopping an SAA board meeting at which the appointment of a permanent CEO was to be decided.
EFF MP Floyd Shivambu said after the committee meeting the nonattendance by board members was due to a boycott. He had it "on good authority from board members" that they did not want to be associated with Myeni "because she is continuing with the same antics she was doing before this new board was appointed".
But it turns out two of the 11 board members were overseas, one emphatically denied the existence of a boycott, another was ill and at least two others had to attend other SAA meetings. One director said it was poor planning to have these meetings at the same time as the finance committee meeting.
It emerged from a document presented to the committee that SAA has continued on its loss-making trajectory in 2016-17, notching up an unaudited R1.9bn loss for the year to end-March and a R734m loss in the first two months of the current financial year. The loss in 2015-16 was R1.5bn. The airline, which is facing liquidity challenges, continues to rely on a R19bn state guarantee to keep functioning.
The airline’s written presentation to the committee showed it generated R30.4bn in revenue in 2016-17, while operating costs were R30.9bn. Finance costs totalled R835m and the operating loss was R533m.
In its future strategy SAA will examine improved aircraft utilisation, high loss-making routes, enhanced labour productivity, and the renegotiation of aircraft lease agreements.
Finance committee chairman Yunus Carrim rejected the airline’s presentation on its strategic plan and quarterly performance as a "pathetic", "flimsy" and "astonishingly thin" document not dealing with any key issues facing the airline.