Nico Bezuidenhout. Picture: FINANCIAL MAIL
Acting SAA CEO Nico Bezuidenhout. Picture: FINANCIAL MAIL

THE acting CEO of South African Airways (SAA), Nico Bezuidenhout, got a small taste of the bumpy ride that is the top job at the troubled airline, after on Thursday having to clear up the state of his academic qualifications.

According to SAA’s 2012 and 2011 annual reports, Mr Bezuidenhout held a BCom degree in industrial psychology and transport economics, as well as an MBA. SAA said on Thursday these claims appeared in a biographical note owing to an "editing error".

"Due to an editing error, SAA’s 2011 and 2012 annual reports erroneously reported that Mr Bezuidenhout had completed his degrees," SAA spokesman Tlali Tlali said on Thursday.

"A media inquiry has today brought to light the fact that mischief makers are attempting to besmirch the good name of the acting CEO of SAA," he said.

Mr Bezuidenhout "has never made a secret" that his "university studies included courses required for industrial psychology and transport economics," Mr Tlali said. "He did not complete his … studies, choosing instead to enter the world of work."

Commenting on Mr Bezuidenhout’s MBA studies, Mr Tlali said "he has completed his course work, but has so far not handed in his thesis" after he chose to concentrate on the launch of SAA’s low-cost carrier, Mango.

"Should any document, report, or other communication exist which claims anything different to the above, it was written and published without his agreement and has never had his backing."

Mr Tlali did not respond to a query about how the mistake had appeared in successive annual reports.

Public Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba has undertaken to fill the CEO position before the end of this month. Mr Bezuidenhout is in the running for the high-pressure job.

The Department of Public Enterprises has said the new CEO would be asked to sign a five-year contract and would be expected to implement the turnaround strategy that is being crafted by the airline in co-operation with the department’s aviation team.

Mr Bezuidenhout was appointed to this task team in his capacity as Mango CEO.