Pravin Gordhan. Picture: SUPPLIED
Pravin Gordhan. Picture: SUPPLIED

Thursday’s grounding of SA Express is a direct consequence of state capture‚ Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan says.

Earlier in the day‚ the South African Civil Aviation Authority suspended the air operators’ certificates and certificates of airworthiness for nine of the company’s 21 aircraft‚ effectively ending its operations.

It came just hours after Gordhan asked Cabinet to appoint the new board of the airline‚ which was to be led by Tryphosa Ramano.

"The minister [Gordhan] has always said that the cost of the state capture will be a challenge to reverse‚" his office said in a statement. "Today’s suspension of the airline is a classic example of the impact of corruption and malfeasance on the country’s national assets.

"The minister takes this opportunity to commit to all South Africans that all those that are involved in the malfeasance and weakening of the airline will face the necessary consequences. In conclusion‚ the minister apologises to the committed customers of SA Express and the general public for the disruptive impact as a result of the grounding of the airline‚" the statement said.

Gordhan said the grounding "comes as a result of consistent deterioration of the airline’s performance over the years". These "compromised the safety operation of the airline".

"This impact is informed by actions of the previous executive management that resulted in looting of resources without being held accountable during their tenure in the airline. SA Express Airways remains a critical player in the economy in connecting smaller towns to the major economic hubs.

"An urgent recovery of the airline is therefore critical to minimise the impact‚" he said.

The statement said that Gordhan had taken measures to stop the rot at SA Express in recent weeks‚ including identifying an intervention team to support the executive management until a permanent team could be appointed by the Board. This team is responsible for‚ among other things‚ technical‚ safety and maintenance‚ stopping the bleeding and achieving financial stability and providing a leadership‚ governance and safety culture.

"In addition‚ a team of technical aviation experts has been identified that will address the challenges that have continued to undermine the operations of the airline‚" Gordhan said.