NEW BOSS to pilot saa

THE position of chief executive of SAA, which was left vacant by Khaya Ngqula a year ago, has finally been filled.

Yesterday SAA chairperson Cheryl Carolus announced that Siza Mzimela, currently chief executive of the state-owned regional airline SA Express, has been appointed the airline's new boss.

Carolus also said details of the results of an investigation by KPMG, and the board's plan of action following on from the KPMG findings, would be announced early next month. KPMG was tasked with completing a forensic report following allegations levelled at the company when Ngqula was placed on special leave a year ago. He has since left SAA.

Mzimela will join SAA next month, but Carolus said that from March 1 she would spend a day a week at SAA while still fulfilling her duties at SA Express, and by April, she should be spending a day a week at SA Express and the bulk of her time at SAA as she changes over her roles.

Carolus said the board had been looking for someone with a proven track record and a good level of financial literacy to build a winning team. Mzimela was chosen from a shortlist of five.

Mzimela has 14 years experience in airlines. She has a degree in economics and statistics and has previously worked for SAA in a number of positions, from research analyst to executive vice-president of global passenger services, and set the strategic direction of global sales and the Voyager loyalty programme.

She is on the board of SA Tourism and was previously chair of the Airlines Association.

She has been chief executive of SA Express since 2003. During her tenure she introduced new routes and recently started a new airline, Congo Express in the DRC.

In 2009, SA Express made a net profit of R235,4million and it remains financially sound, Carolus said.

She said that the board expects Mzimela "to hit the road flying". One of her main priorities will be sorting out corporate governance issues at SAA.

Carolus said Mzimela was arriving at SAA at a time when it was already turning around. In its last results SAA was already in the black.

Carolus did not exclude the possibility that SAA and SA Express would merge, saying they operated closely and the conversation was on the table with regard to a closer relationship between the two.

She also said the board expected SAA to "behave in a way that fosters other airlines", indicating that the board was not in favour of bullying tactics.

But this announcement, and the imminent news on what KPMG found and a plan to overcome internal problems, points to a busier board which is currently "finalising the steps of action we are going to take".