South African Airways (SAA) chairwoman Dudu Myeni was not all-powerful and would have to be a team player when it came to making important decisions in the interests of the cash-strapped airline, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan said on Wednesday
“I don’t see the chairperson as this unique, all-powerful character who can do what they like. The chairperson must work in the context of a team and decisions are made on a democratic basis in a board, not by an individual,” Gordhan said as opposition MPs grilled him on him on her controversial reappointment as board chair by Cabinet last week.
Gordhan conceded the appointment of Myeni and the rest of the board came after a compromise was reached during discussions in Cabinet.
“Different views are expressed about all the names and their merits and demerits and the list that you see before you is the outcome of these various discussions and compromises or settlements, if you like, that we’ve reached so that we can get on with the job of running SAA on an efficient, effective, and above all, profit-making basis…,” he said.
Gordhan denied being coerced into appointing Myeni.
“If there’s any bullying that I’m subjected to because of this, I’ll certainly come back and let you know.”
The minister said he would meet with the board soon to outline what Treasury, as shareholder, expected of them. This included the board finalising its 2014/15 financial statements to be presented to parliament by September 15, and to the Hong Kong Registrar of Companies, who has threatened to ground all flights to Johannesburg, by September 30.
He was also giving consideration to an application by SAA for a government guarantee to ensure it continued trading as a going concern.
Gordhan said he would be keeping a close eye on board decisions to ensure they were reached by democratic consensus.
“I believe we now have the right balance…to ensure no one individual has inordinate influence over the direction of the airline and any decision made in that airline and I’m going to insist when I meet this board that it must behave in accordance with corporate governance rules and that means we don’t want the business as usual approach of the past to go into the future and the shareholder will be watching very carefully that the board as a whole works as a team and works in the interests of the airline and for no other purpose,” he said.
“We need to get it over the next five years or so to become financially effective… and above all SAA should be spreading its wings rather than cliping its wings at this point in time and if we do the right things and serve national interests far more importantly than individual or sectarian interests and ensure that that team can take us in a new direction.”
– African News Agency (ANA)