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Gordhan Resisting Pressure Over Delay in Mango Disposal Decision: The High Court Ruling

Published September 21, 2023
9 months ago

South Africa's public enterprises minister, Pravin Gordhan, insists he won't be pressurized into making a decision about the fate of Mango Airlines following a Pretoria high court’s ruling. Judge Moses Phooko ruled that Gordhan should decide on the Mango disposal application that business rescue practitioner Sipho Sono filed within 30 days. Failure to do so will imply that the application has been approved.

Gordhan, whose delayed decision has already stretched for several months, was found to have acted unlawfully and constitutionally invalid according to the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA). Judge Phooko indicated that the status of the business rescue practitioner’s application couldn't remain in limbo indefinitely, emphasizing the constitutional obligation for government functionaries to perform their duties diligently and promptly.

Gordhan communicated that he wouldn’t surrender to pressure to accede to the rescue process of Mango Airlines hastily - an SAA subsidiary. Highlighting the importance of safeguarding the interests of South Africans, Gordhan maintained that he would stand by his fiduciary responsibility for any decision on Mango’s future to be cogent with legislative prescriptions and the public's best interests.

He also mentioned that the PFMA necessitates him to request additional information concerning the proposed sale to make the best decision. Expressing the desire of the department to follow legal prescriptions, Gordhan asserted they won't compromise the government's role regarding national airlines.

Low-cost airline Mango has been in business rescue since July 2021. An anonymous consortium was chosen to buy the airline, but Gordhan’s postponed decision may jeopardize the sale. The consortium has waited for the deal's approval since November 2022. Should the transaction fail, Mango’s business rescue plan will necessitate shutting it down.

Gordhan reportedly desired to examine the business case of the consortium before deciding. However, this was objected to by Sipho Sono, who feared that sharing such sensitive information could potentially put Mango Airlines at an unfair advantage against its parent company, SAA.

The heated court case saw Gordhan and the department of public enterprises arguing that statutory powers are in the domain of the executive and legislative branches of government, a point the court considered.

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