Vuyani Jarana needed to pilot SAA out of turbulence

Aircraft fly past during President Cyril Ramaphosa's inauguration at Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Pretoria. The display was a moment of pride for South Africans in our national carrier, says the writer. /REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko
Aircraft fly past during President Cyril Ramaphosa's inauguration at Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Pretoria. The display was a moment of pride for South Africans in our national carrier, says the writer. /REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

Many South Africans and I were filled with excitement and pride during the 2019 inauguration to usher in the sixth democratic government, and the Thuma Mina president in particular.

There was a huge sense of relief among those who want this country to prosper again.

What made the day extra special was to witness the spectacular display by the national carrier, with black people showcasing some of the aircraft, and it was at that moment that some of us were overcome with emotion.

That moment felt like a re-birth and renewal of hope.

What we did not know was that the soldier at the helm of SAA was in a mental war as his departure was imminent.

His act of service is patriotism and there is no doubt about this fact. I am referring to the former SAA CEO Vuyani Jarana.

Jarana was well respected by many for his commitment and that he was the right fit to turn around the national carrier, contain the growing operational costs, reduce inefficiencies and ultimately grow revenue so the entity can be sustainable and viable.

This country continues to show utter disrespect for black excellence and professionals.

It is rife in the private sector but there is a growing phenomenon in the state-owned and government sector that credible leaders are not supported nor given the space to showcase their skills and leadership ability without interferences.

This is sending a signal that black leaders cannot be trusted.

After the nine wasted years of Jacob Zuma presidency, many were booted out because they were either incompetent or part of the Gupta rot. Whenever they were shown the door, the country would in unison shout "good riddance".

Now, other black executives are being driven out simply because of clueless politicians and inept bureaucrats, who will not allow them to do their work. It is up to you, Mr President, to stem this before it turns into an epidemic.

Jarana quit and exposed the rot on his way out.

Mr President, we know that for you, SA's situation is a one mega PR crisis. Political analysts tell us you are playing the long game.

While this makes political sense, to us mortal beings who must face the harsh consequences of the nine wasted years, you tend to come across as postponing the inevitable, and not appreciating the calamitous economic situation we are in.

As a president who listens to his people, I implore you, in the spirit of Thuma Mina, to listen, and move swiftly.

Jarana is spoken highly of by key stakeholders. The SAA Pilots Association, an influential union that stood up against Dudu Myeni, is extremely concerned about his departure.

This is the man who convinced local and international banks to keep SAA in the air. They were willing to risk billions of rand, because they could see the results for themselves.

On his watch the SAA had saved some R500m and got rid of some executive remnants from the disastrous Myeni rule.

In a single move, SAA has been hurled back into the intensive care unit where its condition is critical and indicators for recovery once again unfavourable.

It now needs R17bn over the next couple of months to keep going. We cannot afford to keep throwing money at the problem.

Someone needs to swallow their pride, and that someone is you Mr President. Give Jarana a call and tell him to go back to his office and pilot SAA out of the turbulence.

As social media keeps reminding you, the late Hugh Masekela did not only sing one song. It is time for strong, decisive leadership, Khawuleza Mr President.

*Keswa is a businesswoman and marketing consultant

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