SAA snubs meeting with Scopa and Gordhan

The financially embattled SAA pulled a no-show on Tuesday, failing to attend a meeting with parliament’s standing committee of public accounts (Scopa). The committee was supposed to hear from the business-rescue practitioners about SAA’s progress, and further discuss the issues at the financially crippled airline.

SAA was placed under business rescue in December 2019, with the aim of creating a value proposition and ensuring the airline becomes financially viable.

The business-rescue practitioners — Les Matuson and Siviwe Dongwana — who were meant to present a report to the committee, also failed to show up. This was because one of them had a family bereavement, but Scopa only learned about this on Monday evening.

Scopa chairperson Mkhuleko Hlengwa said SAA’s no-show was disrespectful and unacceptable.

“I am very fed up. It is pointless if the people who are supposed to give us answers are not here. This is unacceptable, because the abuse of public funds is involved in this. There is big money from the public here that was abused, and we need them to account. I will let the practitioners know about the outcomes of today,” Hlengwa  said.

“All of us here are working hard and doing our jobs, and they [SAA management] are slacking. They did not send anyone here, not even a representative on their behalf. I would have expected them to at least afford us that respect.  All they do is postponing and not being straight with us. They send correspondence during the night or after working hours. This is becoming a norm and it is unacceptable.”

Hlengwa said that the business-rescue practitioners also appeared not to respect and want to work well with parliament.

“We do understand that there is a bereavement that one of the practitioners is attending to, and also we need to be sensitive in our work. But they should also try and improve their attitude towards the committee, because they are required to still account to parliament, regardless of being the rescue practitioners.”

According to Hlengwa, this delay is a big blow to their work, because parliament is going on recess from Friday.

“We must find a way to convene our own family meeting as Scopa, even during this break. This is very crucial and cannot be delayed much more. The work must continue,” he said.

However, this is only one of several no-shows to the committee from both SAA and the practitioners.

Democratic Alliance MP Benedicta van Minnen expressed her disappointment and frustration with SAA.

“They are floating around. Their behaviour is not acceptable, and they are showing no interest to account at all,” Van Minnen said. “The mere fact that SAA has not pitched up for this meeting, [which] is aimed at holding them accountable, is insulting and shows great disrespect for our work.”

ANC MP Sakhumzi Somyo defended the practitioners and said the committee should bear with them.

“They are not running away from anything, I believe. They are proposing that we at least give them until sometime next week,” Somyo said.

SAA received a total bailout of R10.5-billion from the government last year, with some of that money paid out earlier this year.

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Chris Gilili
Chris Gilili is a climate and environmental journalist at the Mail & Guardian’s environmental unit, covering socioeconomic issues and general news. Previously, he was a fellow at amaBhungane, the centre for investigative journalism.

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