Foreign consultants without valid work permits were granted entry into the country to do work for troubled South African Airways (SAA). Weekly Xposé can reveal that last month, several consultants from Seabury Consulting, a New York-based consulting firm contracted by the national carrier to the tune of R60m to review its business realignment plan, landed in the country and were allowed to work with only visitors’ permits. This despite SAA premises being located at important airports, including OR Tambo International, which are national key points.
Weekly Xposé was reliably informed the blunder which led to the violation of the National Key Point Act and the Immigration Act was only corrected after South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu) raised the alarm and wrote a letter to acting SAA chief executive Musa Zwane, SAA board chairperson Dudu Myeni and former Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba, who is now Finance Minister. In their letter, dated 3 March 2017, Satawu demanded the immediate termination of the employment of seven individuals led by Seabury vice chairman Michael Cox, who they claimed were given access to SAA premises with only visitors’ permits and without valid work permits.
Weekly Xposé sent questions to Zwane who admitted in his response that the country’s laws might have initially been violated but that SAA had since rectified the situation. “All members of the Seabury team working for SAA onsite have necessary short work authorisation permits and are fully compliant with South African laws. In the initial stages of the project, some members of the Seabury team came to the country do specific assignments limited to one week at a time. Subsequently this has been corrected and all Seabury people, irrespective of the length of time envisaged in the country, are in possession of the necessary work permits, Zwane said. He conceded that Seabury consultants referred to in Satawu’s letter were not fully compliant “and the situation has since been rectified”.
Responding to Satawu’s claims that giving the consultants access to SAA premises was a violation of the National Key Point Act, Zwane said: “All the consultants were provided with access to SAA offices in line with the security provisions applicable to the offices at Airways Park. SAA offices (Airways Park) are not within the borders of the National Key Point (OR Tambo International Airport).
Satawu spokesperson Zanele Sabela said while they have it on good authority that the individuals named in their letter had since flown back to the United Sates (US), “Satawu is highly concerned about the general flouting of rules and regulations at SAA”. “Worse still, is the fact that SAA management wasn’t even worried to let Minister Lynne Brown publicise the presence of Seabury consultants even though they knew the individuals concerned were in the country illegally,” Sabela said.
Weekly Xposé understands SAA’s appointment of Seabury as the airline’s restructuring strategic advisor and chief restructuring officer has triggered widespread unhappiness among SAA staffers, most notably those belonging to the South African Cabin Crew Association (SACCA). In its letter addressed to Treasury and the SAA board, of which Weekly Xposé is in possession of, the union lamented lack of consultation on the matter. “We hold a strongest conviction that as a majority union, we are an important stakeholder when it comes to the affairs of the airline and that we are entitled to information and to be engaged regarding such important decision-making,” SACCA said in its letter.