Home South African Pravin Gordhan ‘instructs’ board to appoint Bezuidenhout as CEO of Mango

Pravin Gordhan ‘instructs’ board to appoint Bezuidenhout as CEO of Mango

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Bezuidenhout’s highest qualification is a matric certificate.

SAA Board

resolves to

appoint

CA Glenn

Orsmond ■ Gordhan

allegedly

instructs Board

to appoint Nico

Bezuidenhout 

■ Legal

opinion warns

SAA of liability

if it appoints

Bezuidenhout,

who has only

matric 

■ Board

rescinds

Orsmond’s

appointment

and readvertises

with tailored

requirements    

Johannesburg – Public Enterprises MinisterPravin Gordhan allegedly insisted on the appointment of Nico Bezuidenhout, whose highest qualification is a matric certificate, as the new chief executive officer of Mango Airlines, a subsidiary ofSAA.

Gordhan allegedly overruled the SAA board, which had decided to appoint Comair joint chief executive Glenn Orsmond, a chartered accountant, in favour of Bezuidenhout, in May.

Orsmond, who holds a BCom degree from Rhodes University and has over 30 years’ experience in the aviation industry, took over at Comair after his Mango appointment was rescinded.

Bezuidenhout’s return to the R3.5 million-a-year job at Mango came five years after he resigned from the low-cost carrier under a cloud for having “overstated” his academic qualifications in the annual report on two successive financial years.

According to SAA insiders and internal correspondence, Gordhan allegedly instructed Mango board chairman Peter Tshisevhe, through his adviser Depak Patel, to ensure Bezuidenhout was appointed. This came after then-SAA board chairman Bekhumuzi Magwaza informed Gordhan in a letter dated September 27, last year, that the national carrier’s board “approved the appointment of Mr Glen Orsmond for the position of CEO for Mango” following “a rigorous recruitment process”.

This followed a written resolution of the Mango Board meeting signed by Tshisevhe and board members Tinyiko Mhlari, Marelize Labuschagne and Akhter Moosa on August 20, last year.

SAA spokesperson Tlali Tlali yesterday refused to comment on Bezuidenhout’s appointment, saying only “the appointment of the CEO of Mango was made after a rigorous recruitment and selection process which considered work experience, deep and wide industry knowledge”.

He confirmed the position had been advertised twice “to ensure that both qualifications and industry experience were considered before a final recommendation was made”.

“The minister neither prescribed nor influenced the appointment of the CEO of Mango,” Tlali added.

He failed to respond to questions relating to a meeting where Tshisevhe allegedly told the other board members that Patel had called him regarding Bezuidenhout.

Tshisevhe, Magwaza and Mgoduso and other board members could not be reached for comment.

Gordhan’s hand in Bezuidenhout’s appointment is allegedly contained in a lawyer’s letter sent to acting SAA chief executive Zukiswa Ramasiya by human resources head Vuyiswa Raseroka, who is challenging the airline’s intention to suspend her.

According to the letter, penned by Raseroka’s lawyer Thabo Kwinana of Kwinana and Partners, Mabuza Attorneys and Nkome Inc Attorneys on October 1 SAA intended suspending her for alleged gross insubordination and tampering with or influencing the change in SAA’s qualification framework.

The charges are in relation to Raseroka’s refusal to pay US national Phillip Saunders, as instructed by Mgoduso, for the two weeks he worked between July 31 and August 16 without a work permit. Raseroka cited a notice from the airline’s head of rewards and benefits, Vik Ramlugaan, on August 21,that it was unlawful for anyone to work without a work permit.

Another charge is in connection with her refusal to explain why Bezuidenhout has been re-employed as Mango chief executive without following his alleged misrepresentation of qualifications.

Raseroka claimed “Bezuidenhout’s appointment is a “Pandora’s box” that SAA “should not be the one to open”.

In the letter, Raseroka said through her lawyers that Tshisevhe allegedly told an SAA board meeting that he received a telephone call from Patel at the height of the recruitment process, who informed him that Gordhan “wants the Mango board to employ Bezuidenhout as Mango chief executive”.

She said the meeting was held at Rothschild offices in Rosebank, Joburg, on July 27. Mgoduso, Tshisevhe, and two other board members, Martin Kingston and Geoff Rothschild, were in attendance. Raseroka added that Bezuidenhout’s appointment had entailed three processes that “the board of Mango and SAA had sanctioned and participated in”.

“At that meeting, the Mango board chair Mr Peter Tshisevhe reported that during the initial recruitment process undertaken by Mango he had received a telephone call from the minister’s adviser, Mr Depak Patel, who informed him that the minister wants the Mango board to employ Mr Nico Bezuidenhout for the minister’s concurrence,” Raseroka said in the letter.

“The Mango board had excluded both SAA chief executive and SAA board in such process. Further, not all the candidates were interviewed, particularly Mr Nico Bezuidenhout as he was not shortlisted for lack of a degree qualification.”

After being informed about Orsmond’s appointment, Raseroka said, Gordhan refused to sanction it, demanding to know whether the SAA board and chief executive were involved in the final decision. She said Tshisevhe’s alleged disclosure of Gordhan’s “wishes” ultimately “resulted in the second and third interviews” and “changed job specifications”.

This included “an option for those without a degree which was compensated by a further requirement that such candidate should have over 15 years’ aviation experience”.

The SAA board then took another resolution in November last year rescinding Orsmond’s appointment.

“The recommendation to the shareholder (Gordhan) regarding the appointment of Mr Glenn Orsmond as the chief executive officer of Mango Airlines be and is hereby rescinded,” read the board meeting minutes signed by company secretary Ruth Kibuuka on February 26.

Gordhan’s spokesperson Richard Mantu yesterday confirmed that Bezuidenhout’s appointment had been “endorsed by the minister” after the SAA board recommended he be appointed, “based on his experience, deep knowledge and global knowledge of aviation industry”.

Mantu added that the board had followed “due process”.

Mantu confirmed that Patel is Gordhan’s adviser, but denied that there was any “conversation between him and Tshisevhe about Bezuidenhout’s appointment”.

Mantu confirmed that the board had “initially submitted to the minister for his consideration a recommendation that Orsmond be appointed” as Mango Airline chief executive.

“The minister noted that representatives from the SAA board and chief executive had not been involved in the selection process to ensure the alignment between SAA and Mango.

“It is the department’s understanding that a legal opinion was sought by the company which indicated that the selection process be led by the SAA board,” he said.

A legal opinion sought by SAA also warned the national carrier that appointing Bezuidenhout without removing a B Admin degree as a requirement for the job and re-advertising the position, would open Mango up to legal challenges.

“To mitigate against the risk of these claims, Mango Airlines ought to re-issue the advertisement for the chief executive position, both internally and externally and make it clear that having a bachelor’s degree is not an essential requirement of the job,” said law firm Edward Nathan Sonnenbergs.

The SAA board appointed Bezuidenhout on May 13, at a “salary of up to R3.5m plus a self-funding short term incentive plan to the maximum of R1.7m”.

The Sunday Independent