Transnet moves to reshape its costly baggage
SA Airways chief Zukile Nomvete has been shafted, write ROGER MAKINGS and SVEN LUNSCHE
Heading the list are management changes at loss-making SA Airways with Zukile Nomvete being moved from his position as executive director of the airline.
Appointed in his place is Mafika Mkwanazi, Transnet's deputy MD. Mkwanazi will retain control of Spoornet, Metro Rail and PX.
Transnet MD Saki Macozoma is embarking on a two-week tour to seek the backing of global bankers to restructure the group's R22-billion loan book.
Macozoma said the loans were currently linked to Transnet. "As we corporatise our various operations, such as SAA, the loans have to move with the new structures. I'm confident our bankers will back the move, as the loans are still guaranteed by government."
Macozoma, however, expressed concern that new finance department proposals to restructure Transnet's R12-billion pension fund deficit could slow the restructuring of the group.
"We would prefer to place the deficit in a special finance vehicle so they would not impede the operations of our company," said Macozoma, adding that he was confident of an imminent solution.
The board also agreed that Transnet's telecommunications arm Transtel should raise its stake in cellular phone group MTN by 3.5% to 23%. (See page 3)
The focus of the board meeting, however, was SAA. Nomvete was removed from his position following the airline's dismal performance during his two-year stewardship. Last year SAA recorded a loss of R323-million and it is expected to lose a further R300-million at the financial year ending March 1998.
CEO Mike Myburgh, who reported to Nomvete, will retain his position. Macozoma indicates, however, that the entire management structure will be reviewed ahead of SAA's partial sale by the end of the year.
Nomvete has been shifted to take charge of Transwerk, Viamax, Chemical Services, Production House and Autonet, which will be fully privatised later this year. These are smaller operations.
Airline executives welcomed the shifting of Nomvete. "The problem in SAA over the last two years was that any decisions taken by white managers were viewed with suspicion," one source said.
"We had delays in major decision-making which resulted in problems becoming crises - as we saw in our fuel price and staffing problems. In a nutshell, our leadership lacked experience."
In the past two years, SAA has suffered some serious setbacks - the most notable of which was a confirmed purchase of four Boeing 777s, with an option on a further three, being put on hold indefinitely at a time when the aircraft were desperately needed on new routes and to replace ageing fleets.
The delay is said to have cost the airline millions in penalties. It also took a pounding in the press over the declining levels of service, while labour disputes have also featured strongly.
Many key personnel have taken packages rather than remain with a loss-making airline in which morale is said to be at an all-time low.
Nomvete's removal is believed to have been put off for over a year. Sources say that while he accepted the decision at the board meeting on Friday, he could well challenge in at a later stage.
Nomvete's leaving will open the way for CE Myburgh - who introduced Operation Clean-up last year, saving the carrier R170-million - to take full management responsibility. Mkwanazi has seen a dynamic two years as head of Spoornet, which he restructured, retaining experienced white managers in the process and increasing efficiency and profit.