Gordhan dodges questions on SAA/Takatso Consortium deal

Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan has dodged the grilling by members of the standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) on the SAA/Takatso Consortium deal.

Gordhan was scheduled to appear before the committee on Tuesday, but handed in a notification at the eleventh hour that he was accompanying President Cyril Ramaphosa on a state visit to Kenya.

In the letter to Scopa chairperson Mkhuleko Hlengwa, the minister requested for the meeting to be postponed.

Dated November 4, the letter reads: “Your correspondence dated 25 October 2022 relating to the above-mentioned refers: Please note that late this week I was requested by the president to accompany him on a state visit to Kenya from the 8th to 9th November 2022.

“This will clash with your planned meeting, at which I would have wanted to be present. As you know, the transaction is being led by the Department of Public Enterprises. I am therefore requesting a postponement so that I can attend on my return from Kenya. The cooperation of the committee will be greatly appreciated.”

Gordhan was expected to furnish the committee with an update on the status of the SAA/Takatso deal that will see 51% shares in a debt-free SAA being transferred to the Takatso Consortium for a meagre R51.

Alf Lees, DA MP and member of Scopa, said: “These shares in SAA are sold after all liabilities of SAA have been paid by the taxpayer. R51 thus buys 51% of the shares in SAA with no liabilities but extensive assets in the form of, amongst others, a well-known and established brand, extensive and valuable route rights, fixed properties, aircraft and 100% of the shares in SAA Technical and Air Chefs.

“Over the past 17 months since the grand announcement by Pravin Gordhan of the gratuitous sale of 51% of the shares in a debt-free SAA to the Takatso Consortium, Pravin Gordhan has obfuscated or simply refused to divulge the full details of the SAA/Takatso agreement nor the operating reports of SAA since it resumed operations in September 2021.”

Lees added that despite probing questions having been put to Gordhan during Scopa meetings, “he has simply not provided the required detailed replies to questions and Scopa has allowed Gordhan to get off the hook and escape from providing answers to questions.

“The same obfuscation and lack of answers has been the ongoing modus operandi of Pravin Gordhan when dealing with written parliamentary questions put to him on the SAA/Takatso deal.”

During a presidential reply session in parliament on November 3, Ramaphosa said the full details of the SAA/Takatso deal should be made public.

On Monday, Lees wrote to Hlongwa: “It has been our experience over the past 17 months that during meetings of Scopa when questions have been put to minister Gordhan and/or the officials of the Department of Public Enterprises and the officials of SAA, that minister Gordhan has not provided full replies and the officials of the department and SAA have either equally not provided information or simply remained silent.

“In addition, in reply to your oral question in parliament last week, president Ramaphosa stated that he was in favour of the full details of the SAA/Takatso deal being made public.

“I take this extraordinary step of writing to you to request that during the meeting to be held on the 15 November 2022, at which minister Gordhan is due to be present, that you use the powers vested in you as the chair of Scopa to insist that minister Gordhan and department and SAA officials provide full and detailed information about the SAA/Takatso agreement, and that they reply fully and in detail to all questions put to them by members of Scopa.”

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