Storm over union claims against SAA

The public enterprises department recently announced it was awaiting an urgent response from the South African Airways (SAA) board regarding “serious” allegations levelled at CEO Khaya Ngqula by the South African Transport and Allied Workers’ Union (Satawu).

Satawu last week handed a dossier containing allegations of wrongdoing against SAA’s senior management to Public Enterprises Minister Brigitte Mabandla. Satawu has so far declined to go into the details of the allegations, and the union’s general secretary, Randall Howard, was not available for comment last night.

The Sunday Times recently reported that the allegations came as SAA prepared to clinch a catering deal estimated at R3,5bn with a consortium involving Vusi Sithole, a business partner of Ngqula, and his wife, Mbali Gasa. French company Servair was the preferred bidder to supply about 180000 weekly in-flight meals on SAA’s domestic routes, the paper said.

While the SAA CEO has yet to be proved to have committed any wrongdoing, Ngqula has continued to court controversy since his appointment to SAA.

Ngqula was roundly criticised when early in his tenure he used a helicopter at great expense to attend meetings in Gauteng that were within driving distance of each other. He also took a holiday in the middle of SAA’s crippling strike in 2005.

The CEO’s salary package has also been a bone of contention.

  • Ngqula received a total salary package of R5,88m in the year to March, up 17.6 per cent from the previous year’s R5m — this in the same year that the airline posted a R1,09bn loss.

  • Ngqula’s package included a basic salary of R3,74m, pension contributions of R1,44m and a retention premium of R688,000, according to SAA’s annual report.

    The Democratic Alliance recently called for a full forensic audit of the airline. “Despite losing more than R16,6bn since 2002 — which has cost the tax paying public more than R8,9bn in handouts — Mr Ngqula remains in his position and continues to receive retention bonuses despite being wholly ineligible for performance bonuses,” said Manie van Dyk, the party’s spokesman on public enterprises.

    “His hubris extends to his consistent snubbing of Parliament’s oversight role. Despite fielding a further R1,09bn loss in 2008, Mr Ngqula and his management team were unable to find the time to report to the portfolio committee on public enterprises last year.”

    Source: Julius Baumann, Storm over union claims against SAA, Business Day, 03 February, 2009

    For text:

    FMF Policy Bulletin/ 10 February 2009
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