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Parliament's SAA hearing possibly partly behind closed doors

The SAA briefing documents would still be made available to the media even if the briefing is held behind closed doors.
The SAA briefing documents would still be made available to the media even if the briefing is held behind closed doors.

Parliament's finance committee has agreed to explore the possibility of holding parts of briefings by state-owned airline South African Airways in closed session when the matters under discussion are market sensitive.

This could affect the briefing that SAA is due to present on Thursday next week.

Holding parliamentary meetings behind closed doors is highly controversial and is closely regulated by the rules of Parliament. The constitution also stipulates that committee meetings cannot be closed in an open and democratic society unless it is reasonable and justifiable to do so.

Parliamentary legal advisor Frank Jenkins told the committee on Thursday that SAA matters would legitimately fall within the rules of Parliament.

The rules require that an application be made to the Office of the Speaker for a committee meeting to be closed.

Committee chairman Yunus Carrim emphasised that if the committee decided that the matters raised in the closed meeting were not market sensitive‚ the documents presented to the committee would be disclosed to the media. A resolution on holding closed meetings will be adopted on Tuesday.

Carrim said the committee was acutely aware of how competitive the airline industry was. It was not fair to expect SAA to report on market-sensitive issues in the public domain that would serve to the advantage of its competitors. On the other hand it was a public company and was required to account to Parliament‚ said Democratic Alliance finance spokesman David Maynier‚ opposing the adopting of the resolution.

There was a controversy earlier this month when acting chairperson Thandi Tobias terminated a committee meeting on SAA's fourth-quarter results‚ pending the determination of whether the committee would decide to hold this meeting behind closed doors. The Democratic Alliance was adamant that no such decision had been taken and that none of the information in the fourth quarterly report was market sensitive.

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