Crisis-ridden South African Airways (SAA) has flown into more turbulence as yet another executive, general manager of human resources Vuyi Raseroka, has been placed on precautionary suspension.
Employees in SAA’s HR unit — including union representatives at the state-owned airline’s Kempton Park headquarters — were informed by management on Wednesday that Raseroka would no longer be reporting for work pending a disciplinary hearing.
It could not be immediately established why Raseroka, who joined SAA in early 2018 after the appointment of former SAA chief executive Vuyani Jarana, was placed on suspension.
The airline’s spokesperson Tlali Tlali, would only say: “SAA confirms that the airline’s executive responsible for human resources, has been placed on suspension today.”
Raseroka’s suspension is the culmination of a series of bad news for this week for the loss-making airline, and follows an announcement by its government shareholder Pravin Gordhan last Friday that SAA and sister airline SA Express will not meet their deadlines to submit annual financial statements to Parliament.
Gordhan said the two airlines would miss Parliament’s deadline to table their financials within six months of their financial year end due to “serious financial problems” and being unable to achieve going concern status. This is the third consecutive year that going concern issues have prevented the airline from meeting this statutory obligation.
“SAA board has informed me that the newly appointed Interim CEO and the Interim CFO need more time to submit the required information for audit, to the Auditor General SA for the 2018/19 financial year,” he was quoted as saying in his letter.
Earlier on Wednesday, Enoch Godongwana, the head of the ANC’s economic transformation desk said the party’s recent national executive committee had thrown its weight behind government’s long standing plan of finding an equity partner for SAA.
This is in an attempt to raise some R22-billion that is estimated to be required for the airline to break even. So far, the airline has received a little over R15-billion in government bailouts since 2017, and is waiting for a decision on a R4-billion bailout request from the national treasury.
Before Gordhan’s announcement, SAA’s board was scrambling to contain discontent from within after South African Airways Pilots’ Association (Saapa) announced an intention to go on strike over “critical operational and technical deficiencies”.
Today they were joined by Numsa and the South African Cabin Crew Association (Sacca), who issued a joint statement criticising the board and SAA’s management.
“Sacca and Numsa [National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa] have been calling for the SAA board to be scrapped and all board members to be removed because they have not acted in the interests of the airline. We have consistently made a call that the board must be reconstituted and represented by representatives of labour, business, and the government.
“We have written numerous times to Minister Pravin Gordhan asking him to dissolve the current board of SAA as it is not delivering and it is also a hindrance rather than a solution to the problems of the airline,” the statement read.
Raseroka’s suspension follows that of customer experience executive Vuyo Tuku last month. The airline is also without a permanent CFO and CEO after Jarana’s in June. Raseroka could not be immediately reached for comment on Wednesday afternoon.