Disgruntled staff SAA's top priority, says new boss Musa Zwane-
The freshly appointed South African Airways (SAA) acting CEO has spoken his first words in the new role.
Musa Zwane, the seventh permanent or acting CEO at SAA in less than four years, told the standing committee on finance in Parliament on Wednesday that SAA needs to engage with all disgruntled employees that have issues with the state-owned company.
The head of the state-owned carrier’s maintenance unit was moved into the role to replace Thuli Mpshe, who had held the position on a temporary basis for less than four months.
SAA named Mpshe as acting CEO after Nico Bezuidenhout returned to his role as head of low-cost airline Mango in July.
On Tuesday, the SAA board said that Mpshe, whose main role is head of HR, was asked to return to this department to focus on the issues stemming from the disgruntled employees.
Zwane said on Wednesday SAA’s pilots, cabin crew and technical staff all had serious issues with the company and the management had to engage with each team equally.
“We cannot elevate one stakeholder over the others,” he said.
On Monday, at a special general meeting at SAA headquarters, pilots of SAA voted overwhelmingly in favour of a vote of no confidence in both the chair and non-executive directors of the board.
Captain John Harty, chair of the SAA Pilots Association, said in a statement that the vote of no confidence was prefaced by a discussion on the financial situation at SAA, the controversial Airbus deal and possible breaches of certain legislation as well as the impact of recent statements made by the chair on the authority of the captain of an aircraft.
At the time Harty said it is hoped that this vote of no confidence will serve as a clarion call to Minister of Finance Nhlanhla Nene and the government that the future of SAA requires immediate and urgent attention and that a new board, "fit for purpose and able to deal with the challenges currently facing the airline", be appointed as soon as possible.
Zwane also said the pilots were complaining about the Airbus deal, while the cabin crew and technical staff had historical issues around racism and discrimination.
“All of these are key to having a smooth running organisation,” he said.
The R6bn Airbus aircraft deal has come under the microscope after SAA board members were allegedly put under pressure into approving “an unaffordable” deal with the French aircraft manufacturer. The deal has now become the subject of an Ernst & Young investigation.
In 2002 SAA ordered 40 aircraft from Airbus. The arrival of the aircraft was staggered, with 30 delivered by 2013. From the original deal, there were about 10 A320-200 aircraft still outstanding. In 2014, SAA took a decision to amend the original contract by wanting to swap the remaining ten with aircraft that had bigger engines and were more fuel efficient.
Due to the dollar and rand exchange rate, SAA could only secure five aircraft for the initial amount that had been paid.
SAA meanwhile said it also plans to make an announcement later this week regarding the position of the chief financial officer after Wolf Meyer resigned to pursue other interests.
In July SAA's chief strategy officer Barry Parsons resigned, saying he has lost all confidence in the board to lead and progress the business.