SA Express: All the corrupt ones are gone, unless...

SA Express has now done what it could to get rid of those involved in corrupt or irregular actions at the state-owned airline during what is referred to as "the nine lost years", interim CEO Siza Mzimela told Parliament on Wednesday.

This is, however no guarantee that there are not people left in the system who worked with those committing irregular or corrupt actions, that SA Express may not be aware of, she told the Select Committee on Public Enterprises and Communication.

She said SA Express had taken legal action to try to recover some of the money it lost due to corruption. Furthermore, a number of corruption matters are now with the Hawks. The airline has also submitted all the information at its disposal to the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture.

At the Zondo Commission, SA Express employees testified about the Koroneka ground handling services contract in North West and about the jet fuel contract of EML Engineers and Construction. The airline has also submitted information requested by the commission, including financial statements, annual reports and travel reports.

'Unscrupulous activities'

The airline provided the committee with a list of criminal cases against individuals who benefited or played a role in what it called "unscrupulous activities". Most of these relate to the Koroneka matter in North West.

The inquiry heard that the company was awarded a R51m contract with SA Express to handle ground services at the Mahikeng and Pilanesberg airports without following due procurement process.

Furthermore, the airline has undertook action relating to what it calls "irregular and suboptimal commercial agreements" that are being investigated against Namane Capital, Mothebe Shuttles, Solenta Aviation and Bagport Africa.

"We have done what we could. From our side we did various forensic investigations, but one can never say if everybody that is corrupt is out as they could have been working with others in the system. But everyone we know of is out," said Mzimela.

'Our bodies are still in the hole'

"We have finalised whatever actions we could do regarding issues of corruption. We had a special team and various forensic investigations. We believe most of the people involved have left the airline."

SA Express board member Dr Thabi Leoka told the committee that one should not under-estimate the impact "the nine wasted years" of state capture had on state-owned enterprises like SA Express.  

"Since new boards have appointed, we are expected to create miracles. We are working our way up from the hole in which the airline had fallen," she said.

"Our heads are starting to stick out of the hole, but our bodies are still in the hole. We are in the process of stabilising the airline, while also being mindful of the mandate of the airline."

She said the board has approved a shortlist of three candidates for the CEO position. This list was submitted to the Department of Public Enterprises (DPE) already last year.

"In the meantime, we were happy to extend Ms Mzimela's contract twice already," said Leoka.