Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan is apparently determined to remove SAA chairperson Dudu Myeni from the airline’s board.
The minister of finance has the power to appoint and remove board members since executive authority over SAA was transferred to the treasury in December 2014.
These powers are outlined in the SAA Act, Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) and Companies Act.
The Sunday Times reported that Gordhan allegedly informed President Jacob Zuma about axing Myeni, who is a close friend of the president.
According to a source, Zuma ignored Gordhan, forcing him to repeat his intentions. “This time the president simply responded that he had heard him. He never said yes or no, or asked why,” reported the Sunday newspaper.
It added that the SAA board had no idea of Gordhan’s announcement in his budget speech that SAA would merge with SA Express. “It seems clear, furthermore, that we do not need to be invested in four airline businesses. Minister [Lynn] Brown and I have agreed to explore the possible merger of SAA and SA Express, under a strengthened board, with a view to engaging with a potential minority equity partner, and to create a bigger and more operationally efficient airline,” he said in his address.
SAA rejected claims of a frosty relationship between Treasury and SAA. Treasury was not available for comment. It was widely believed that Zuma fired Nhlanhla Nene as finance minister after he took on Myeni for wanting to reconfigure the airline’s Airbus swap deal.
The deal, which was originally struck in 2002 and renegotiated in 2009, required SAA to make pre-delivery payments of $40m (R603m) on new Airbus aircraft.
However, the SAA board conceded defeat to Treasury after Gordhan directed it to conclude the Airbus deal in accordance with approval granted by Nene for a lease of five A330-300 aircraft from Airbus.