Public Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba has accepted the resignations of eight South African Airways (SAA) nonexecutive directors, including chairperson Cheryl Carolus, and has appointed eight replacements to support the four remaining nonexecutives directors – Vuyisile Kona has been appointed as SAA’s new chairperson.
Besides Carolus it was confirmed that Russell Loubser, Bonang Mohale, Louis Rabbets, Jabulani Ndlovu, David Lewis, Teddy Daka and Maggie Whitehouse had also resigned.
The other new nonexecutive directors named were Andile Mabizela, Andile Khumalo, Bongisizwe Mpondo, Dr Rajesh Naithani, Carol Roskruge, Raisibe Lepule and Nonhlanhla Kubeka.
Gigaba expressed irritation that certain resignations had been announced through the media. He also described the timing as “bizarre”, asserting that they followed a “prompt engagement” between Gigaba and board members following a media leak of a possible board shake-up.
“The insinuation that the said media leakage was caused or orchestrated by the Minister or the department is both mischievous and ill-conceived,” Gigaba said, describing the leaks as an abuse of free speech.
It was widely accepted, he said, that the terms of the majority of board members would have come to an end at the airline’s upcoming annual general meeting scheduled for October 15.
He also defended his authority to review board appointments yearly and described as “established convention” the gaining of Cabinet concurrence to board changes at State-owned companies – such consultation was undertaken on September 19.
Since taking up his position, Gigaba has adopted a “hands on” approach to shareholder oversight across the eight State-owned companies falling under the authority of the Department of Public Enterprises.
He recently made wholesale changes to the board at SA Express and surprised many when he made material changes to the Eskom board in mid-2011, when he replaced Mpho Makwana with Zola Tsotsi. He has also been active in the selection of new nonexecutive directors and the restructuring of boards at Transnet, Denel, Safcol and Alexkor.
Business Day quoted Carolus on Friday as saying that she had taken the extraordinary decision, owing to a “breakdown in the relationship with the shareholder”.
She expressed frustration with the suggestion made by Gigaba at a recent Cape Town Press Club event that SAA lacked a strategic vision.
Following his remarks, Gigaba had put out a note clarifying his statements, in which he said it was inaccurate to infer that he did not support further funding for SAA. But he reiterated the need for “a long-term vision” and that the airline should not “continue requesting funding without presenting a long-term plan”.
For some time, SAA had been seeking further guarantees and had even argued previously for a shareholder injection of between R4-billion and R6-billion.
Gigaba said his department was in consultation with the National Treasury on a guarantee application, the resolution of which would be announced once finalised.