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SAA agrees to conclude leasing deal with Airbus

Cash-strapped South African Airways has taken the first step towards improving its financial position.

Picture: AFP

CAPE TOWN - The cash-strapped South African Airways (SAA) has taken the first step towards improving its financial position by agreeing to conclude a leasing deal with Airbus, but opposition politicians say the airline won't succeed without a change in leadership.

The Congress of the People (Cope) and the Democratic Alliance (DA) have blamed SAA board chairperson Dudu Myeni for the airline's financial woes.

Myeni had sought to restructure the deal to acquire new aircraft, by bringing a middleman in on the transaction.

Former Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene was axed several days after he refused to approve the board's proposal.

Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan's first big move since his recent reappointment has been to direct the SAA board to conclude the deal with Airbus, in line with the approval granted by Nene.

The swap transaction, which was approved in July 2015, will see SAA leasing five A330-300 aircraft instead of buying ten A320 aircraft.

DA MP Natasha Mazzone says the minister must now focus on the airline's leadership.

"The minister should look at quite urgently appointing a chief financial officer."

Mazzone says Myeni must be suspended while the airline's finances are probed.

"A full investigation into the financial chaos at the airline must be conducted and those who acted together with Myeni to hamper the turnaround of the airline must also be fired. An expert in the aviation industry, not a political crony, must be employed as a matter of urgency to oversee the turnaround of the airline."

Cope's Dennis Bloem says the entire board should be sacked.

"This board, with Dudu Myeni, has plunged SAA into serious trouble."

SAA pilots are also calling for the appointment of a new "fit for purpose" board to oversee the airline.