Scopa guns for former CEOs, directors of bankrupt SA Express

Siza Mzimela, former acting CEO of SA Express, now has a job at Transnet. SA Express workers were picketing outside the offices of the department of public enterprises over their uncertain future while the airline's liquidators, government officials and MPs were meeting.
Siza Mzimela, former acting CEO of SA Express, now has a job at Transnet. SA Express workers were picketing outside the offices of the department of public enterprises over their uncertain future while the airline's liquidators, government officials and MPs were meeting.
Image: JAMES OATWAY

Parliament's standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) says it will be seeking answers from the previous board members and CEOs of SA Express over the collapse of the government-owned regional carrier.

This comes after the public finance watchdog body received a report on Wednesday from the SA Express liquidators.

The airline was placed under provisional liquidation in April and this has since been extended to September by the high court after a successful application by a team of liquidators led by Aviwe Ndyamara.

It was placed into provisional liquidation after years of huge financial losses amounting to billions of rands and its more than 600 employees have been in limbo with no salaries since April.

However, Ndyamara's report showed that SA Express has for years not been paying the tax it deducted from its employees' earnings to revenue service Sars.

This did not sit well with MPs from across the political spectrum, who argued they would be calling former SA Express CEOs Inathi Ntshanga and his successor Siza Mzimela to explain, because the history of non-payment of employees' tax to Sars stemmed from their tenure.

Mzimela took over from Ntshanga as interim CEO in 2018 but left SA Express at the beginning of April 2020 to take over as the CEO of Transnet Freight Rail.

ANC MP Bheki Hadebe and Scopa chairperson Mkhuleko Hlengwa shared the view that Mzimela, Ntshanga and former SA Express non-executive directors needed to answer for the airline's collapse.

Hlengwa said it was particularly concerning that Mzimela managed to land a top job at Transnet while she left an uncertain future for scores of workers at SA Express.

SA Express workers were picketing outside the offices of the department of public enterprises over their uncertain future while the liquidators, government officials and MPs were meeting.

The MPs also lashed out at Kgothatso Tlhakudi, the acting director-general of the department of public enterprises, for suggesting that MPs were pointing fingers at individuals by seeking answers.

“The previous boards and executives. I think colleagues we'll really have to find time and engage them. It boggles the mind that the same DPE would transfer for all intents and purposes the former acting CEO to another entity.

“If you trace back the problems back to 2018, when Inathi Ntshanga left, the irregular, wasteful expenditures were shooting through the roof and the board at the time said they had to let him go. He was paid some R700,000 to buy him out of his contract which had about four or five months to go.

"So at the heart of this has been a fundamental mismanagement dilemma.”

Ndyamara told MPs that thus far, there had been seven business entities that had expressed interest in buying the airline or some of its assets.


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