Unions question SAA interim CEO appointment while ATM wants him deported

South African Airways's ability to remain solvent is being questioned in court.

The ATM calls on the home affairs minister to deport Saunders back to the United Kingdom, as a matter of urgency to create space for a suitably qualified South African.

Unions including the African Transformation Party (ATM) have questioned the appointment of SAA interim CEO, Philip Saunders.

Public enterprises acting director-general Kgathatso Tlhakudi announced Saunders’ appointment on Tuesday, highlighting the extensive experience Saunders brought to the embattled airline.

Saunders takes over after former CEO Vuyani Jarana resigned last year June following the airline’s troubles which led to acting CEO Zuks Ramasia taking up the reigns only to leave for retirement in April.

The National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) including the SA Cabin Crew Association have however criticised the appointment adding that Saunders lacked adequate experience and was part of the airline’s previous leadership which helped collapse the airline.

The airline has evaded possible liquidation after its business rescue plan received the thumbs up this week, after backing from creditors and stakeholders.

While Treasury has indicated no plans to bail the airline out beyond the payment of its credit, the African Transformation Movement says Saunders appointment was an insult to the talented men and women of South Africa, including the SA senior managers of SAA in particular.

In a statement, the party said: “According to the sketchy profile of Mr Saunders gleaned from LinkedIn it’s even questionable why in August 2019 he was appointed as Chief Commercial Officer in SAA when his experience was based only on the tiny operations in places like Malta (small island) and Kuwait.

“Saunders has not finished even a year at SAA in his current Chief Commercial Officer role yet he is seen as the best candidate to be interim CEO. This can only be attributed to the privilege of being a white male and a citizen of our former coloniser. He will just be a tool that will never stand up to Gordhan.

“How did Saunders even qualify to get a work permit to be in South Africa in the first place when being a commercial officer is not listed as a scarce and critical skill.

“SAA has a lot more complexities than airlines with a fleet of less than a handful of aeroplanes. Why was internal talent overlooked? The Saunders appointment represents the continued arrogance of Pravin Gordhan who seems hell-bent not to appoint Africans into any CEO role.”

The ATM calls on the home affairs minister to deport Saunders back to the United Kingdom, as a matter of urgency to create space for a suitably qualified South African.

“The deportation of foreign nationals who are here on dodgy grounds cannot be reserved only for the Africans from the rest of the continent.

“ATM rejects the appointment of under-qualified Saunders and calls on the Cabinet to intervene by reversing this appointment to restore confidence and integrity in the choice of the interim CEO.”

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