The South African Airways chief executive and board have walked out of Parliament – refusing to deliver a briefing to Members of Parliament from all parties in public.
Members of the embattled airline board – including its chairperson JB Magwaza – and the chief executive Vuyani Jarana got up and walked out of the finance committee after refusing to deliver a “turnaround” strategy report in public to MPs.
The acting chairperson Thandi Tobias said the SAA wanted a closed meeting as their was “sensitive” market matters to discuss. “I cancelled the meeting today because there was a dispute among members (Members of Parliament serving on the committee).”
She explained that she had done so because she had to verify from Hansard that such a decision – to have a closed hearing – had been previously taken. The Democratic Alliance, the official opposition, demanded that the hearing be held in a public forum.
Tobias acknowledged to eNCA that it was normal that parliamentary hearings are held in public “based on (our) constitutional democracy”. It took a very sensitive report for parliament to close a meeting. She said the SAA representatives had argued that it needed “a closed environment” for it to protect its competitive advantage.
EWN reported that permission had been granted by Parliament’s House chairperson Cedric Frolic to close the meeting, but the DA says there was no agreement within the committee that such a request be made.
Tobias ordered MPs to return confidential documents to the committee secretary.
It emerged in the Huffington Post that SAA needs nearly R22 billion to be profitable again. Jarana said – before the aborted hearing – that this money would have to be raised over the next three years if the state owned airline were to be turned around. It would come in the form of a Treasury bailout as well as loans from banks. It was reported the SAA would need a R5 billion bailout from Treasury – almost immediately – but this is actually a bridging loan from banks, which is backed by the Treasury.
The remainder needs to be raised by October.
The National Treasury later published the ‘confidential’ SAA presentation, which shows an actual net loss for 2017 of R 5.7 bn, and predicts the figure will rise this year, with a return to break-even only by 2021.