The grounding of State-owned regional airline SA Express is, according to Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan, “a classic example of the impact of corruption and malfeasance on South Africa’s national assets”.
He was responding to the airline’s grounding by the SA Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) which saw its Air Operators Certificate (AOC) and Certificate of Airworthiness (COA) suspended as well as nine of its 21-strong fleet of aircraft grounded.
“The grounding of the airline is the result of consistent deterioration of the airline’s performance over the years, including a number of incidents in the last weeks or so, that compromised the safety operation of the airline. This impact is informed by actions of the previous executive management that resulted in looting of resources without being held accountable during their tenure in the airline,” Gordhan said in a statement.
He maintains SA Express is a critical player in the national economy providing connectivity between smaller towns and major economy hubs. “An urgent recovery of the airline is thus critical” and Gordhan has initiated a number of steps to “radically change the way SA Express operates”.
These will see an intervention team to support management until a permanent team can be appointed as well as a technical expert team to “address challenges that have undermined operations”. The intervention team is also tasked with immediate stabilisation of the airline; technical, safety and maintenance, “stop the bleeding” and achieve financial stability; inject short term liquidity and put SA Express on a recapitalisation oath as well as improving the leadership, governance and safety culture of the airline.