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UDM Leader Urges Ramaphosa to Dismiss Minister Gordhan Amid SAA Sale Controversy

Published March 01, 2024
3 months ago

A maelstrom of contention surrounds the recent developments in the sale of South African Airways (SAA) to the Takatso Consortium. Central to the turmoil is Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan, who is facing vehement criticism from United Democratic Movement (UDM) Leader Bantu Holomisa. The call for President Cyril Ramaphosa to intervene has intensified in light of revelations that the minister may have mishandled the privatization process of the national carrier.

The controversy reached a pinnacle when Minister Gordhan attended a Parliamentary session to address allegations of improprieties. During a two-hour in-camera meeting, the minister reluctantly produced crucial documents related to SAA's divestment to the members of the Portfolio Committee on Public Enterprises. The handover came despite Gordhan’s earlier insistence for the MPs to sign non-disclosure agreements - a request turned down by the committee's chairperson, Khaya Magaxa.

While the committee now possesses the documents, comprising the shortlist of potential buyers and the purchase agreement with Takatso, a subsequent meeting has been scheduled. The primary aim is to secure a legal opinion concerning the confidentiality of these documents and to deliberate whether future discussions should be held in private or public.

The stakes were raised when Bantu Holomisa expressed his severe discontent through a public letter to President Ramaphosa. It paints a damning picture of Minister Gordhan, suggesting that his actions aim to suppress transparency. Especially troubling to Holomisa is the sale price of the majority stake in SAA - a 51% share for just R51. He suspects this mirrors not only a botched sale but one that potentially conceals ulterior motives favoring unidentified individuals.

Backing these allegations is the former director-general of Public Enterprises, Kgathatso Tlhakudi. Through what is known as a protected disclosure to Parliament, Tlhakudi alleged that the SAA's acquisition by Takatso sidestepped legal mandates and specifically targeted particular beneficiaries, diverging from the shortlisted set of equity partners.

Despite the unsettling claims, the specifics of the Takatso deal indicate a pledge from the consortium - with Harith General Partners and Global Aviation holding the reins - to fortify SAA with a R3 billion capital thrust over the coming two years.

The situation hinges on the assessment of legal experts and the committee's subsequent strategy to either uphold Gordhan's stance on confidentiality or to dismantle it in favor of public scrutiny. If incorrect practices are indeed brought to light, there could be massive political and economic repercussions, including potential shakeups within the government.

The quiet storm brewing behind the doors of government holds significant ramifications not only for the entities directly involved but for the South African government's approach to transparency and accountability in large-scale financial dealings.

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