Dudu Myeni. Picture: ESA ALEXANDER/ THE TIMES
Dudu Myeni. Picture: ESA ALEXANDER/ THE TIMES

A boardroom shake-up was on the cards at embattled national carrier SAA, with speculation rife that the axe might fall on chairwoman Dudu Myeni and her deputy Tryphosa Ramano, sources said on Wednesday.

A consortium of lenders owed billions by SAA has been breathing down the airline’s neck, demanding that Myeni go, while also insisting that the composition of the board remain the same as a precondition to roll over their debt.

But sweeping changes are set to be announced in Thursday’s post-cabinet meeting statement, after the executive had resolved to approve the board reshuffle spearheaded by Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba, said the sources, who asked not to be named.

The changes would be effected at a special board meeting scheduled for the first week of November, when SAA is supposed to hold its annual general meeting (AGM).

The carrier has not submitted its 2016-17 annual financial statements, in the absence of which it cannot hold an AGM.

The expected move on the board was seen as an indication of the enormous pressure Gigaba had been under to get rid of Myeni, as well as the danger posed to the fiscus in the event of the national carrier’s lenders calling in their debt.

The minister had also been engaged in intense lobbying to remove Myeni amid resistance.

A recent board assessment, which Business Day has seen, painted a bleak picture of Myeni’s understanding of her fiduciary duties, with board members who completed the survey identifying her as a stumbling block to the airline’s prospects of a turnaround.

It is understood Gigaba also commissioned his own board assessment, which is said to have been conducted by the Institute of Directors and the results of which are still lying on his table.

Gigaba would deliver the medium-term budget policy statement next Wednesday against a backdrop of plunging tax revenue and a weak economy, sources pointed out. There was simply no money available to repay lenders if they were to call in their debt, they said.

Other board members on the chopping block were Gugu Sepamla, Mzimkulu Malunga, Siphile Buthelezi and Nazmeera Moola, government sources sympathetic to the minister revealed, while those close to the board confirmed they had heard the same.

Nkunzi Investment Holdings executive chairman JB Magwaza, Nolitha Fakude, who recently stepped down from Sasol, former JSE chairman Geoff Rothschild, aviation expert Ahmed Bassa, chartered accountant Tinyiko Mhlari and a prominent deal maker were said to be the replacements to be announced on Thursday.

Magwaza was mooted as the new chair of SAA, while Fakude was set to become his deputy. Standing committee on finance chairman Yunus Carrim said late on Wednesday the committee would comment only if the Cabinet did in fact release a statement to announce the board changes. The committee exercises oversight over SAA.

Government Communications and Information System CEO Phumla Williams could not be drawn on the speculation on Wednesday, saying any Cabinet business would be communicated at a briefing on Thursday morning.

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