Neels Blom Writer at large
SAAT, which provides maintenance service to almost all large aircraft in SA, has experienced capacity problems that have led to flight delays and disruptions, industry insiders say. Picture: UPSPLASH/IMRAN CREATOR
SAAT, which provides maintenance service to almost all large aircraft in SA, has experienced capacity problems that have led to flight delays and disruptions, industry insiders say. Picture: UPSPLASH/IMRAN CREATOR

The acting CEO of SA Airways’  maintenance subsidiary SAA Technical (SAAT), Wellington Nyuswa, has been replaced after six months at the helm of the embattled unit.

Nyuswa was appointed as acting CEO in March 2018 after the suspension of CEO Musa Zwane, along with SAA’s CFO Phumeza Nhantsi, following a qualified audit report by the auditor-general tabled in parliament at the time.

The report found, among other matters, that SAAT’s inventory could not be verified and that there were insufficient controls in place to manage the inventory. It also found glaring accounting irregularities on maintenance costs and that incorrect exchange rates had been recorded. It said that SAA Group had not established controls to maintain complete records of irregular expenditure and wasteful expenditure.

Nyuswa remains in SAA’s employ. 

SAA’s current CFO Hendus Venter  is the new acting CEO though also in a (three-month) acting capacity.

Venter’s role as CFO at SAA is being filled by Mankwe Makgate in an interim capacity, according to sources. 

SAAT, which provides maintenance service to almost all large aircraft in SA, has experienced capacity problems that have led to flight delays and disruptions, industry insiders say. JSE-listed Comair, SAA’s main competitor, is winding down its arrangement with SAA for this reason.

Its CEO Erik Venter said earlier that there had been a drain of skills and no reinvestment into that pool at SAAT, and that this had created a crisis around aircraft maintenance.

SAAT has also faced a slew of allegations of procurement and tender irregularities. In 2017, forensic accounting firm Open Waters reported irregularities going back to 1999 that has cost the maintenance unit millions of rand.

SAA Group has been unprofitable for decades. The debt SAA carries is significant and underwritten by the government. The Treasury allocated R5bn to SAA in the October medium-term budget. About R14.2bn of SAA’s debt is due in March 2019.

Nyuswa was appointed as Zwane’s replacement to ensure business continuity, said SAA spokesperson Tlali Tlali.