South African Airways (SAA) has appointed general manager for operations Zuks Ramasia as acting CEO following the resignation of Vuyani Jarana. Ramasia assumed her new role June 10.

The change comes as the state-owned airline says it is again facing financial problems. The carrier has been kept alive by several cash infusions from the government over recent years.

“The board acknowledges the critical financial circumstances confronting the company and is in ongoing discussions with the Department of Public Enterprises, National Treasury and financial institutions with respect to putting in place a financial structure appropriate to supporting the long-term sustainability of the company,” SAA said in a statement.

The board added that it had begun a search, locally and internationally, for a permanent CEO “with appropriate experience and expertise to stabilise the company and to oversee the implementation of the long-term turnaround strategy.”

Jarana led SAA for less than two years. A senior executive in the telecommunications industry, he was brought in to try to rescue the national carrier, which has been losing money for years. His turnaround plan envisaged the state-owned airline breaking even in 2021, but only after a series of financial boosts from the South African government.

SAA said Jarana would be available to provide transitional support to the board and management.

There have been media reports in South Africa that Jarana’s resignation letter cited bureaucracy and a lack of government support for the turnaround plan as reasons for his departure. Prior to his arrival, SAA had had seen a revolving door of CEOs, with several being fired or suspended in rapid succession.

SAA described Ramasia as “an experienced executive with extensive aviation background” and said she would be supported by “experienced executive committee members,” including CFO Deon Fredericks and chief restructuring officer Peter Davies.

“With the support of the shareholder [the government], the board and executive management of SAA are fully committed to the turnaround strategy,” SAA chairman Johannes Bhekumuzi Magwaza said. “In that regard we are working closely with the shareholder to optimise the aviation assets of the state.” 

In other appointments at SAA Group, Adam Voss was named CEO of South African Airways Technical (SAAT), and the board is finalizing the appointment of a permanent CEO for the group’s LCC, Mango Airlines.

“We are close to concluding other senior appointments and will make further announcements in due course," Magwaza said.

Alan Dron, alandron@adepteditorial.com