SAA executive accused of spying

A senior SAA executive has been suspended amid allegations of spying — and refusing to give his “free” business class seat to a paying customer.

Vuyo Tuku, who is the acting customer experience executive, was allegedly caught on closed circuit cameras at Airways Park in the OR Tambo International Airport precinct sharing sensitive company information.

It could not be established what information was being shared, or with whom, but two sources said the cameras, in his office, recorded him emailing the information.

At the same time the executive allegedly had a complaint lodged against him by a captain after he refused to vacate his business class seat to accommodate a passenger whose seat had broken down.

SAA spokesperson Tlali Tlali confirmed Tuku’s suspension pending finalisation of an internal investigation, but said the airline’s policy was that he could not divulge reasons for the suspension to ensure “an untainted process, which acknowledges the rights of employees and observe principles of fairness”.


Speaking generally, Tlali said that rebate tickets, which are part of industry travel benefits, are offered in certain categories of discounts and in all instances require payment of benefit taxes by all employees.

“The rebate tickets policy, among other things, provides that passengers who travel on revenue tickets must always take priority on flights and preference on seats over employees travelling on rebate tickets. This means, employees using rebate tickets are never strictly guaranteed travel and must always yield to passengers traveling on revenue tickets.

“The same policy provisions apply and are enforceable on rebate tickets whether on leisure or duty travel.”

He added: “Noncompliance with any provision of the rebate policy or any other policy for that matter, constitutes misconduct.”

Tuku said the incident, which happened on his flight back from Brazil, did not involve a rebate ticket because it was booked by work, for work. “I was not being downgraded to economy, I was being moved from my seat to a seat that was not working … That customer was meant to be compensated.

“I told them [the SAA crew] that I was also tired and had not slept properly for days … There was no policy compelling me to move under those circumstances.

“SAA’s policy is that in these cases customers should be compensated, I do not understand why this led to me being suspended.”

He also said the sharing of information charge could be linked to him sending documents to his personal email address related to the complaint and subsequent inquiries.

Two sources said Tuku got upset when cabin crew asked him to move from the seat for a paying customer, and the duty captain had to intervene.

“There was an actual complaint from the captain who was operating the flight that he refused to move from his seat and even dared the captain to remove him,” said one.

Tuku is one of several executives brought into SAA by then chief executive Vuyani Jarana as part of his attempts to turn the ailing airline around.

Spying and the use of hidden recording equipment is not new at SAA. In 2015 the airline’s then chief financial officer, Wolf Meyer, resigned after he was caught recording a board meeting by controversial chairwoman Dudu Myeni.

At the time Meyer said the recording device, which was disguised as a pen but noticed by one of Myeni’s security officers, was to protect himself.

The meeting was discussing a potential R15-billion debt consolidation after it had put out a tender for a willing financier.

The height of paranoia at SAA saw Myeni’s security guards standing at the door with a bag into which executives had to place their cellphones for the duration of the board meeting.

In June the embattled national carrier’s board held a meeting at the offices of financial advisory firm Rothschild & Co after it became suspicious that offices at Airways Park were bugged. This was in the immediate aftermath of Jarana’s resignation from the airline.

Following the publication of the M&G article, Vuyo Tuku appealed to the press advocate, Joe Latakgomo, to elaborate on the response he offered the newspaper when the allegations of spying were put to him.

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Sabelo Skiti

Sabelo Skiti is an investigative journalist.

Related stories

Institutions of higher learning should commemorate their casualties

The bust of Matikweni Nkuna at Tshwane University of Technology is an example of how we should honour those who fought for equal access to education

Seals abort pups in mass die-off

There are a number of factors — a pollutant, virus or bacteria or malnutrition — that may have caused the 12 000 deaths on Namibia’s coast.

Deconstructing South Africa’s construction industry performance

The construction industry has contracted sharply, partly due to Covid, and needs to rebalance its focus if it wants to survive

Editorial: SA will be bankrupted by looters

The chickens have finally come home to roost: if we do not end the looting, it will end us

Zuma vs Ramaphosa? Neither is the leader South Africans deserve

Neither statesman could command sufficient authority in an ANC that remains mired in corruption and infighting and at the behest of big capital

E-payments for the unbanked are booming

The pandemic is providing mobile phone network operators with a unique chance to partner with fintech firms and banks to deliver clever e-commerce solutions to the informal sector in Africa
Advertising

Subscribers only

Toxic power struggle hits public works

With infighting and allegations of corruption and poor planning, the department’s top management looks like a scene from ‘Survivor’

Free State branches gun for Ace

Parts of the provincial ANC will target their former premier, Magashule, and the Free State PEC in a rolling mass action campaign

More top stories

WSU suspends classes and exams to avoid the spread of...

The university says it has to take the precautionary measures because 26 students have tested positive on its East London campus

Entrepreneurs strike Covid gold

Some enterprising people found ways for their ventures to survive the strictest lockdown levels

Ithala backs its embattled chairperson

Roshan Morar is being investigated in connection with KwaZulu-Natal education department backpack sanitiser tender worth R4-million and a batch of face masks that vanished

Emery Mwazulu Diyabanza: Liberating Africa from land of liberté

The cultural and political activist is on a quest to bring looted treasures back home
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday