Vusi Pikoli and Kate O’Regan at the start of the Khayelitsha commission of inquiry. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON
Vusi Pikoli and Kate O’Regan at the start of the Khayelitsha commission of inquiry. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON

SAA, bankrupted after years of mismanagement and corruption, has named former prosecutions boss Vusi Pikoli as its chief risk and compliance officer as part of an effort to clean up governance at the airline.

The highly respected Pikoli, who is an adviser to state security minister Dipuo Letsatsi-Duba, was first suspended as national director of public prosecutions by former president Thabo Mbeki in 2007, and ultimately fired in 2009 by parliament following a recommendation by then president Kgalema Motlanthe.

Pikoli claimed at the time that he was removed because he was pushing for the prosecution of former police commissioner Jackie Selebi.

He has been the director-general in the department of justice & constitutional development, and has private sector experience as a director and head of forensic investigations.

Pikoli has aviation industry exposure through his involvement in reinsurance of aircraft fleet while working for an insurance company, SAA said.

"The appointment of advocate Pikoli is as important as it is significant in demonstrating  our resolve to bringing capacity to strengthen the executive team to execute on our turnaround strategy with much urgency," SAA spokesperson Tlali Tlali said.

Tlali said SAA had made it one of its priorities to cleanse the organisation of corruption.

In November, public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan urged staff to stop protecting corrupt officials and said that if they wanted the airline to survive, "we have to clean out the dirt".

The airline has struggled to generate a profit since 2011 and has come under fire for putting strain on the fiscus. SAA needs R21.7bn in recapitalisation over three years to fund and fully implement its turnaround strategy to reach a break-even point by the end of financial 2021.

It received a R5bn bailout during the medium-term budget policy statement.

Tlali said that in trying to secure funding for SAA to meet its working capital requirements, the airline had recently approached local lenders to raise R3.5bn, which would sustain the business until the end of the current financial year. This process is still under way.

SAA had met with local lenders on Friday, he said.

In his new role, Pikoli will be responsible for risk management and compliance functions, which comprise aviation and general legislation compliance.

He will also be responsible for the overall strategic and operational responsibility for SAA’s integrated risk management strategy.

He will take up his position on February 1 and report to group CEO Vuyani Jarana.

quintalg@businesslive.co.za