MPs to probe claims that SAA sale deal was ‘corrupt’

The portfolio committee on public enterprise has been given the task to gauge whether there is veracity to the serious allegations that suspended director-general of the Department of Public Enterprises (DPE) Kgathatso Tlhakudi levelled against minister Pravin Gordhan, particularly on the mooted sale of a majority stake in South African Airways (SAA).

This is after National Assembly speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula informed Tlhakudi that the committee is the appropriate structure to deal with the allegations contained in his protected disclosure document that he handed to the Presidency and parliament last month.

“As you are aware, the Protected Disclosures Act of 2000 (the act) prescribes certain actions to be taken in the event of a disclosure. Section 3 (B) of the act states, inter alia, that any person or body to whom a protected disclosure has been made, must decide whether to investigate the matter or not, to refer the disclosure to another person or body if appropriate, and inform the employee or worker of any actions,” the letter dated November 20 reads.

“Given the circumstances, I have referred the disclosures to the portfolio committee on public enterprises (the committee) as the structure to which the minister accounts, for the committee to consider in terms of its mandate  and the provisions of the act.”

Tlhakudi in the protected disclosure dragged director-general in the Presidency Phindile Baleni and President Cyril Ramaphosa’s political adviser, Bejani Chauke, into the dispute between him and Gordhan.

Tlhakudi said he was iced from his role after he alerted Baleni and Chauke of allegations of impropriety against Gordhan over the SAA deal.

In May last year, Gordhan said the state had sold 51% stake in embattled national carrier SAA to Takatso consortium. The deal, he said at the time, would see Takatso take 51% ownership of SAA, with the government retaining a 49% stake. Gordhan said Takatso would inject R3-billion into a new SAA.

Takatso consists of Global Airways, which owns low-cost airline lift, as technical partner, and infrastructure investment firm Harith. The equity partner in Global Airways is Gidon Novick, who was touted to serve as Takatso’s CEO. However, he last week resigned from the consortium.

Tlhakudi, in a “protected disclosure” document leaked to Sunday World said the SAA deal reeked of corruption and alleged Baleni and Chauke knew of the allegations he had made against Gordhan – yet did nothing about it after his suspension.

“I need to make the following protected disclosures in terms of the Protected Disclosures Act 26 of 2000 against my Minister Mr Pravin Jamnandas Gordhan … I was labouring under the impression that since I disclosed this to the Presidency DG even before charges were formulated against me that it would take a form of protected disclosures,” the document reads in part.

Tlhakudi said he first made the protected disclosure to Baleni at a meeting at the Union Buildings on May 24 and to Chauke “before June 2”.

In the document, Tlhakudi alleges that around January 26 2021, Novick contacted him, indicating he had had engagements with Gordhan on providing interim management expertise to SAA. Around that time, Gordhan also contacted him, “impressing upon me the credentials of Mr Novick”.

He said Gordhan then introduced Novick to Harith. He added that Harith boss Tshepo Mahloele referred to Novick and Global as his “white economic empowerment” partners.

Takatso dismissed them as “malicious and defamatory”.

It said the relationship between Novick and Mahloele pre-dated the SAA transaction. They were introduced to each other by an adviser who was assisting Mahloele with his business interests.

“During this time, Mr Novick was looking to attract an investor to his newly launched airline, Lift. When the adviser established synergies between the two parties, owing to Harith’s vast investments in the transport and aviation sectors, a business relationship was kindled between the two parties. Any assertion to the contrary is false.”

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