The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) has received new allegations of corruption concerning the Takatso Consortium’s purchase of a 51% stake in South African Airways (SAA).
The head of the SIU, advocate Andy Mothibi, revealed this in a presentation to Parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa).
Mothibi outlined the SIU’s current investigations into corruption at SAA and the progress made in recovering assets worth around R3.4 billion.
As of 21 November, only R14 million has been recovered, and six referrals have been made to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).
The SIU’s investigations at SAA are yet to be completed and will likely continue for some time as it received fresh allegations regarding corruption at the airline.
Mothibi told Scopa that it has “received new allegations in relation to the Takatso deal and is undergoing SIU internal processes of assessment”.
Since receiving the allegations, the SIU has requested additional information from the Competition Commission, the Auditor-General, and the Department of Public Enterprises.
The sale of 51% of SAA to the Takatso Consortium has been hit by several delays, with Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan initially promising that the deal would be concluded by March 2023.
He has since changed his promise to the end of the year.
The Auditor-General (AG) and other experts have expressed their doubts that the deal will go through.
In a report presented to Scopa, the AG said SAA’s disclaimer audit outcome with material misstatements may create challenges in determining appropriate values for the company and its assets.
It warned that this may result in the terms of the sale and the selling price not being in the state’s best interests.
“I do not think this deal is ever going to happen, although Gordhan keeps promising it will,” aviation analyst Guy Leitch told the SABC.
He explained that for the deal to go through, existing legislation governing SAA would have to be changed in Parliament, and the aircraft operating licences would have to be changed. This would take 18 months at least.
However, “without it, the airline cannot grow; it is already stretched to breaking point, and it desperately needs funds”, Leitch said.
SAA will never be able to catch up with its competitors if it does not secure a cash injection. The airline lacks the fleet, the equipment, and the financial resources to compete.
“At this stage, I can’t see a recovery. I don’t see us ever being the number-one airline to Africa again. We are never going to catch up.”