JOHANNESBURG: South Africa’s newly re-appointed finance minister on Monday ordered state-owned airline SAA to conclude a deal with Airbus to lease five A330 wide-body planes, after weeks of turbulence at the troubled carrier.
“The Minister of Finance, Pravin Gordhan, directed the board of South African Airways (SAA) to conclude the swap transaction with Airbus in line with approval granted in July 2015,” said a Treasury statement released late night on Monday.
The minister’s directive thwarts attempts by the SAA chairwoman Dudu Myeni to renegotiate the deal – a move that would have hit the loss-making airline’s finances hard.
Ex-finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene had publicly slapped down the bid to negotiate a new plane-leasing deal with Airbus.
Early this month the minister was sacked from his job by President Jacob Zuma, leading analysts and the media to speculate that he was dumped over the aircrafts controversy.
Nene’s firing 18 months into his job, and his replacement with little known backbencher David van Rooyen, triggered financial turmoil that sent the rand into a tailspin, plummeting to record lows as investors fled Africa’s most sophisticated economy.
The backlash forced Zuma into a dramatic U-turn, sacking Van Rooyen after four days and re-appointing Gordhan, a steadying hand who held the key finance portfolio from 2009 to 2014.