Vuyisile Kona. Picture: BUSINESS DAY
Vuyisile Kona. Picture: BUSINESS DAY

SUSPENDED South African Airways (SAA) acting CEO Vuyisile Kona says he will not resign, as it is up to the board to prove its allegations against him.

Mr Kona — who was appointed acting CEO in December after being named executive chairman in October — was placed on "precautionary suspension" on Monday by the troubled national carrier’s board, as a result of "certain allegations".

"They must prove whatever they are saying," he said on Tuesday. "I could have walked at the end of December … January but (decided) to stay to keep stability and credibility at the airline."

Mr Kona said he was in "a situation at the moment … (where) I am not fully clear" what the allegations against him were.

"The airline is in dire need of leadership. Anyone can resign, it is the easiest thing to do, but these actions are not helping the leadership problem," Mr Kona said.

"If I resign, what example do I set for 11,000 people (employed at SAA)? It is easy to pack your bags and leave. They must proceed with what they have."

SAA spokesman Tlali Tlali said the allegation "amounts to contraventions of the Public Finance Management Act in relation to the procurement of certain service providers". An investigation would be conducted by an "external and independent law firm".

The Democratic Alliance (DA) demanded that Public Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba explain the reasons for the suspension.

It was a matter of concern "that this is SAA’s third CEO since 2009", DA spokeswoman on public enterprises Natasha Michael said in a statement on Tuesday.

"The manner in which Mr Kona has parted ways with the airline is equally troubling. The reasons for his ousting appear to be clouded in uncertainty, with no substantive explanation forthcoming from either the board or Mr Gigaba," Ms Michael said.

Department of Public Enterprises spokesman Mayihlome Tshwete said the decision to suspend Mr Kona had "not been taken lightly" and had been done to secure SAA’s long-term interests.

"The board listed a host of concerns and those concerns are being investigated. It would be unfair to Mr Kona to put these matters into the public domain before the investigation has been concluded," he said on Tuesday.

The "nature of these concerns would have to be quite serious" to warrant the action taken by the board, Mr Tshwete said.

A new, permanent CEO would be appointed by the end of next month. Mango CE Nico Bezuidenhout had been asked to oversee operations in the interim.

The South African Transport Workers Union (Satawu) said it welcomed Mr Kona’s suspension.

"The acting CEO has a dark cloud hovering above his integrity, honesty, managerial competencies and all other noble aspects one expects out of a CEO for a state-owned, public-funded company," Satawu spokesman Vincent Masoga said on Tuesday.

Mr Kona had been negotiating possible recognition by SAA of the National Transport Movement — a breakaway from Satawu.

Mr Masoga said Mr Kona had a "tolerance of thuggery, ill-discipline and general lawlessness by the employees who have pretend (sic) to be shop stewards".

He said Mr Kona had sidelined " senior managers on their roles" and had appointed "cronies into strategic positions".

Mr Kona also had a "propensity" to convene "secretive private caucuses with antagonistic sections of workers, worker leaders, managers, politicians and business people", Mr Masoga said.