Photo: Julian Herzog

LONDON – Local media in South Africa are reporting that the workers in national carrier South African Airways (SAA) may strike over the resignation of outgoing CEO Vuyani Jarana.

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA), alongside the South African Cabin Crew Association (SACCA), protested at the major airports of the country, the airline’s headquarters, and its technical centers over “a myriad of issues.”

Such concerns have been the alleged corruption within the management of the carrier, problems in the maintenance arena, allegations of nepotism and tribalism as well as the corruption of the human resources department as well.

Last week, Vuyani Jarana stepped down from the airline’s command due to lack of funding and a drop in government support for the turnaround plan of the ill-fated carrier.

Photo: Africaspotter

Jarana’s tenure lasted only 18 months, offering strong promises to bring the carrier round to its first profits since 2011. He, like the SAA chairman Johannes Bheukmuzi Magwaza, has lambasted the government for the continued failures faced by the airline.

In a letter seen by Bloomberg, he said that “Lack of commitment to fund SAA is systematically undermining the implementation of the strategy, making it increasingly difficult to succeed”.

Last Friday, the carrier announced Zuks Ramasia as the interim GCEO and Adam Vos as the new CEO of SAA Technical.

But NUMSA and SAACA have given SAA a memorandum of demand to reinstate Jarana within 48 hours on top of the funding needed to implement the turnaround strategy of the carrier.

“We demand that the entire board resigns because they have lied to employees in saying that Mr. Jarana refused to act for a period of three months. Mr. Jarana was willing to serve his three-months notice, and he was pushed out by the board, without any proper handover”, both unions said.

“We are giving SAA 48 hours to rescind their decision to accept Jarana’s resignation. Should our demands not be met, we will mobilize our members across SAA and other airlines where we are organized, including suppliers within the value chain and embark on a strike which will shut down aviation as a whole.”

Photo: Alan Wilson

The Unions have also outlined who it wants out of the board. Names such as Thandeka Mgoduso, Martin Kingston, Peter Tshisevhe, and Geoff Rothschild have all been named as culprits.

This has been over the enabling of corruption, failing their oversight roles, interference of operations, the ignorance of forensic reports and more.

It is understood that the finance minister of South Africa, Tito Mboweni, is very reluctant to approve further outlays and actually wants to shut the airline down instead.

Back in October, the carrier received a $342 million bailout to help repay any outstanding loans, but the government has not committed any further, putting the airline, once again, into disrepute.

In 2018, Jarana estimated that around $957 million of funding would be needed to fund the airline until it becomes profitable. The airline has only received half of that amount so far.

Currently, the airline operates a fleet of 47 planes, including Airbus A319, A320, A330-200/300, A340-300/600, and Boeing 737-300 aircraft to more than 50 destinations in partnership with South African Express and its low-cost carrier, Mango.