FORMER South African Airways (SAA) CEO Khaya Ngqula says he intends to sue the airline’s former chairwoman, Cheryl Carolus, for R40m for allegedly defaming him.
In a letter addressed to Ms Carolus, who left the carrier abruptly last month, Mr Ngqula’s attorney, Themba Langa, cited statements attributed to Ms Carolus in Business Times on September 30.
In the article Ms Carolus said the SAA board had made "progress in tackling" the labour, competition, fraud and corruption problems at the airline which it had "inherited from previous management".
The letter said: "We are of the view that reference to ‘previous management’ was intended by you to imply management that operated under the leadership of our client.
"It is this false and unreasonable imputation that has caused us to write this correspondence to you."
The SAA board is suing Mr Ngqula to recover about R252m from him in four separate claims. Its claims came after a forensic investigation by audit firm KPMG.
The investigation was sparked by a dossier compiled by the South African Transport Workers’ Union, containing allegations of mismanagement and wasteful expenditure by Mr Ngqula.
KPMG alleged Mr Ngqula had exceeded his authority by awarding bonuses to staff. Further, he had signed sponsorship deals in excess of his authority.
Up until 2006 the sponsorship deal limit was R1m, but after November 2006 it rose to R2m.
The R252m that SAA is claiming from its former CEO is made up of R27.4m paid to employees in retention bonuses in 2007, a R29m sponsorship of golfer Angel Cabrera, an ATP tennis sponsorship deal worth $23.5m and €204,170, and a "junkets claim" worth R637,340. Mr Langa said in 10 investigations Deloitte conducted "during and after our client’s tenure no fraud and/or corruption was ever found".
Ms Carolus declined to comment at the time of going to press.
On Monday, Mr Langa said in an interview that no response had been received from Ms Carolus. "We have had no response and we are going to sue her ."
Ms Carolus was given until Tuesday to respond or to pay Mr Ngqula R40m.
"She must withdraw and apologise or she must provide proof or we will sue her," Mr Langa said.