South African Restructuring Delayed; Acting CEO Departure Date Set

SAA's fleet is currently grounded after South Africa restricted flying because of COVID-19.
Credit: Nigel Howarth / AWST

South African Airways’ (SAA) business-rescue plan has been delayed by another two months to May 29 while the flag carrier’s fleet remains grounded because of COVID-19-related flight restrictions. 

Separately, the date for SAA acting CEO Zuks Ramasia’s departure has been set for Apr. 14 after she requested early retirement.

SAA was put into business rescue—the rough equivalent of administration—in early December 2019. Business rescue involves external business rescue practitioners (BRP), in this case Les Matuson and Siviwe Dongwana, taking charge of a company and restructuring to keep it in business.

Matuson and Dongwana originally planned to publish their business-rescue plan for SAA in late February, but on Feb. 28 this timeline was pushed back to Mar. 31. At the time, Matuson and Dongwana said they needed another month to finalize the proposed restructuring plan and stakeholder consultations, partly because of the complexity and size of SAA.

Matuson and Dongwana have now announced a further deferral to May 29 in a move that has been agreed with the airline’s creditors.

SAA’s operations are currently suspended amid a 21-day nationwide flight ban implemented by the South African government aimed at combatting the spread of COVID-19.

Domestic flights will resume on Apr. 17, but SAA’s intercontinental and intra-African regional flights will remain suspended until May 31. 

Meanwhile, SAA acting CEO Zuks Ramasia has firmed up her departure plan, which was already in the pipeline before SAA’s entry into business rescue and the COVID-19 crisis.

Ramasia has been with SAA for 27 years. She joined the airline in 1992 as cabin crew and held several senior flight operations roles before becoming acting CEO in June 2019. 

She succeeded SAA CEO Vuyani Jarana, who suddenly—and very publicly—resigned in mid-2019, voicing grievances about the government’s handling of the state-owned airline.

“The only reason I agreed [to be acting CEO] was because I could see that the organization was really hollowed,” Ramasia told ATW in October 2019. 

The flight operations leadership team had remained relatively stable, whereas there had been several changes in the commercial division. As a 27-year SAA veteran, Ramasia felt a responsibility to step in.

In November 2019, Ramasia confirmed to ATW that she planned to step down. Her departure is not linked to SAA’s business-rescue process, which began in early December, or the escalation of the COVID-19 crisis. 

“The board of directors at SAA announced today that it has accepted the request from Ms Zuks Ramasia, SAA acting CEO, for early retirement. Her last date of employ will be Apr. 14, 2020,” SAA said in a Mar. 26 statement.

SAA acting chair Thandeka Mgoduso thanked Ramasia for her leadership and passion during her 27-year career at SAA. “Her journey was truly an example of how a number of women are progressively moving up the ranks in previously male-dominated industries,” Mgoduso said.

The board will announce Ramasia’s interim successor, during the business rescue process, in due course.

Victoria Moores

Victoria Moores joined Air Transport World as our London-based European Editor/Bureau Chief on 18 June 2012. Victoria has nearly 20 years’ aviation industry experience, spanning airline ground operations, analytical, journalism and communications roles.