Gordhan accuses SAA pilots of sabotage

Public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan has accused South African Airways (SAA) pilots of running the airline into the ground.

He blames the SAA Pilots Association for adding to the airline’s woes.

Gordhan and SAA business rescue practitioners (BRPs) briefed the standing committee on public accounts on Thursday last week on the restructuring process.

Members of Parliament (MPs) heard how SAA pilots were issued a lock-out notice in December following a deadlock in negotiations.

The national carrier wants to renegotiate a long-standing agreement with the pilots whom it said were hampering transformation.

“The committee should also know, if you want to go into that level of detail, and I referred to this earlier on, that members of the Pilots Association are doing everything possible, ultimately to their own detriment, to sabotage SAA from getting off the ground,” Gordhan said.

He noted SAA would not be receiving any more funding, and would have to look at its new strategic partner for more cash.

“The fiscus will not make any contribution in the future, let me emphasize that the fiscus will not be required to make contributions in the future, because the parallel process to this that is taking place is the acquisition of strategic equity partner,” Gordhan added.

Meanwhile, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said it was concerned by allegations and accusations, which it said bordered on obsession, regarding SAA.

The regulator has dismissed claims it gave the national carrier preferential treatment after it granted the airline an exemption following a take-off incident last month. The details of the incident only emerged recently.

The SAA’s BRPs confirmed that during a flight to Brussels last month, an automatic system kicked in to prevent the plane from stalling mid-air.

The flight was collecting COVID-19 vaccine doses.

The authority’s concerned that an application for an exemption, which it approved and which is common and not unique to SAA, was being twisted to paint a picture that the airline received preferential treatment.

The regulator said the obsession over the exemption was perplexing. It’s questioned the motive of those who have leaked the details of the move to the public.

It said the airline did file a report, however, it failed to do so within the prescribed period – which ranges between 24 and 72 hours depending on the nature of the incident.

After receiving the details, the authority put together a team of technical experts to investigate, not just the incident, but also why the report wasn’t sent through earlier. -EWN