The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) on Monday said that the Labour Court has ordered that several South African Airways (SAA) executives must be suspended pending corruption investigations.
According to Numsa’s acting spokesperson, Phakamile Hlubi, former SAA acting chief executive Musa Zwane; head of baseline maintenance Chaile Makaleng, head of procurement Nontsasa Memela, and Princess Tshabalala, who is also in procurement, have been suspended.
Hlubi said SAA got more than it bargained for by going to court on Friday in a bid to block Numsa members from marching to the state-owned airline highlighting the crisis of corruption at the airline.
“The Labour Court found in our favour and ordered that the executives must be suspended pending an investigation into corruption. The Labour court realised that our members are waging an honourable fight against corruption at the airline, and sided with us,” Hlubi said.
“The court also ordered that SAA must appoint an independent advocate who is acceptable to both parties to chair any disciplinary hearing that may follow. This is to ensure that the airline doesn’t manipulate the process in order to protect senior managers.”
However, SAA spokesperson Tlali Tlali said that Numsa was “wittingly or unwittingly misrepresenting the position of the court” on the matter.
“Nowhere in the order does the court instruct that Mr Zwane and/or any of the officials… be suspended. Paragraph 1 of the order instructs that the scope of the investigation be broadened to include inquiry into conduct of the individuals cited therein for possible breach of company policies,” Tlali said in an email response.
He said that order made provision for the institution of disciplinary proceedings if the investigation ordered and the order also uncovered grounds for such.
“We are nonetheless considering our options and cannot rule out an option to take aspects of the order on appeal.”
There have been several forensic investigations at SAA conducted by various firms including one conducted by Open Waters, Ernst and Young, and Edward Nathan Sonnenberg, detailing incidents of wide scale looting and corruption.
Hlubi said SAA, however, had refused to take action against the executives despite them being implicated in these reports for alleged corruption.
She said one of Numsa’s demands during the Friday march was that senior executive managers at SAA who have been implicated in corruption must immediately be placed on suspension pending a disciplinary process.
“Furthermore the court also ordered that Numsa must be allowed to give evidence during the investigation. Since we got what we wanted through the courts, we now no longer have to resort to a strike,” Hlubi said.