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Gigaba: My meddling in SAA is necessary

Public Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba says he will continue meddling in SAA matters.

Minister of Public Enterprises Malusi Gigaba speaks at a news conference in Kempton Park on 15 October 2012, following an annual general meeting of the South African Airways. Picture: Werner Beukes/SAPA

JOHANNESBURG - Public Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba on Monday said he would continue to keep close oversight over South African Airways (SAA), and said he did not believe he was unnecessarily meddling in the business.

The national carrier held its annual general meeting on Monday, and announced a R1.3 billion loss for the past financial year.

A total loss of R14.7 billion over the past ten years was also reported.

Gigaba was clearly annoyed by the large loss posted by SAA, but was at pains to assure the public that the airline was still functional - despite recent resignations.

"There is absolutely no crisis. A few members of the management resigned, and the company still carried on. "

He slammed management for wasteful and fruitless expenditure of R3 million - R4 million of which was spent on baggage claims.

"It's too big a price to pay for such losses and damages."

A task team is expected to present the minister with a turnaround strategy by the middle of December.

SAA RESIGNATIONS

In the past few weeks, the airline's chairperson, several board members, its CEO and some executives have resigned.

The former chairperson, board members and CEO of SAA raised concerns about government's understanding of the airline's mandate and a lack of support from government.

But Gigaba said former CEO Siza Mzimela's views were her own.

"We can't really explain why she made the claim, and we can't back it up in any possible way. I think we've acted within our responsibility to support the airline."

In a resignation letter to her staff, Mzimela said she did not always experience a "uniform understanding and appreciation of [SAA's dual mandate] from stakeholders, which bred a myriad of challenges.

"As if the operating environment was not daunting enough without this unnecessary discourse and misinformation."

Gigaba said it was his responsibility to ensure state-owned entities worked in the interests of the nation.

"We relate to SAA exactly as we relate to all other state-owned companies."

Gigaba insisted it was pivotal the airline was stabilised as soon as possible.

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