SAA Board suspends Acting CEO

THE BOARD of Directors of South African Airways (SAA) has announced that after careful consideration of recent developments it has decided to place the airline’s Acting CEO, Vuyisile Kona, who was appointed in October, 2012, on “precautionary suspension.”  The Board said this action was based on certain allegations that have come to the attention of the Board, in respect of which the Board has a fiduciary duty to investigate.  This suspension was effective from 11 February, 2013.  It must be stressed, said the Board, that it has not come to any conclusion as to the veracity or otherwise of these allegations.

Meanwhile, the Board has embarked on a process to recruit a permanent CEO.  Applications have been received, and the Board is now in the process of evaluation.  The Board said it is confident that this process will be completed by 31 March, 2013, at which time recommendations will be presented to the Minister of Public Enterprises, Molusi Gigaba. In the interim, the Board has requested the CEO of Mango, Nico Bezuidenhout, to oversee the SAA Group’s operations.

In another development, Acting SAA Chairperson, Dudu Myeni, met the airline's management teams and union representatives to share with them the progress that is being made by the Group as it works closely with the shareholder to deliver a winning long-term strategy for the airline.  She was accompanied to the meetings by Bezuidenhout.

In the meetings, Myeni thanked the staff for the good work that they were doing despite the difficult industry operating conditions, characterised by heightening competition and rising fuel prices.  According to SAA, she informed the staff of the "solid progress" that is being made to come up with a viable long-term strategy for the Group, encompassing both operational and human resources imperatives.

"The Board’s decision to ask Nico to oversee the business in the interim was informed by the need to allow for business continuity and at the same time to ensure that there is optimal understanding and appreciation of SAA’s commercial challenges within the top leadership of the airline during this transitional period. Nico is a very experienced colleague and airline executive, having been appointed CEO of Mango in 2006.  We are very pleased that he agreed to oversee operations and we have every confidence that he will, together with all stakeholders, provide the necessary leadership during this period," she said.

It will be recalled that SAA’s former CEO, Siza Mzimela, tendered her resignation to the newly-appointed Chairperson of the Board of Directors, Vuyisile Kona at the airline’s head office, Airways Park in Johannesburg on 8 October, 2012. The resignation was accepted by the Board and the airline’s sole shareholder, the Government of South Africa, was duly informed. She had been with the airline for approximately three years as its CEO.  The previous Board Chairperson, Cheryl Carolus, and other Board Members also resigned.

SAA accepted Siza’s resignation but indicated that it would only become effective after at least two weeks. This was intended to allow for a seamless hand-over process and business continuity. The Board said that its immediate focus would be on the completion of a new business approach which, amongst other elements, was intended to ensure that the airline is compliant with the conditions that attach to the guarantee issued to SAA by the Government. In the interim, all operational decisions relating to the day-to-day running of the airline were vested in the chairperson, Vuyisile Kona, who was simultaneously appointed Acting CEO.  Two other General Managers, Theunis Potgieter and Sandra Coetzee also tendered their resignations.

SAA assured its customers that these developments would not affect the airline’s business as all of its operations remained intact. It said that the company has different layers of management with strategic and operational competencies and for that reason the airline has no doubt that as a collective, those Executive Managers would continue to give SAA the necessary guidance and provide the required leadership.

The airline said it viewed these resignations as a turbulence of a temporary nature which must not be allowed to affect its ability to discharge its core function in a responsible and prudent manner. “SAA is a resilient company that has the ability to weather the storms,” it said.

SAA wished Mzimela well in her future endeavours and thanked her for all the hard work, dedication and commitment she had shown towards the airline.  “She has made a contribution which her successors will certainly build on,” it said.

SAA is the largest carrier in Africa, serving 26 destinations across the continent, as well as major destinations within South Africa and internationally from its Johannesburg hub. It is a member of the largest international airline network, Star Alliance.

SAA’s core business is the provision of passenger airline and cargo transport services together with related services, which are provided through SAA and its four wholly owned subsidiaries: SAA Technical; Mango, its low cost-carrier; Air Chefs, the catering entity of SAA and South African Travel Centre (SATC).


Vuyisile Kona, the suspended Acting CEO, SAA (left) and Malusi Gigaba, Minister of Public Enterprises, South Africa (right).