Takatso deal goes begging after Gordhan bows out

File photo of South African Airlines check-in desk at Cape Town International Airport. Picture: Henk Kruger/Independent Newspapers

File photo of South African Airlines check-in desk at Cape Town International Airport. Picture: Henk Kruger/Independent Newspapers

Published Mar 11, 2024


The Takatso Consortium majority stake acquisition of SAA is effectively dead in the water as it can’t get guarantees from the government to keep the airline afloat, government aviation sources said.

An aviation official said the question of who was “going to bell the cat” in informing the public that the deal was through had become a “pass the parcel” matter.

“The minister could not say the deal had failed because he had always been the one pushing it. He did not want to reveal the Takatso documents of Parliament because the truth would have come out.

“He waited until he could announce his retirement,” the source said.

SAA spokesperson Vimla Maistry referred questions on the continuity of the SAA/Takatso deal to the Department of Public Enterprises (DPE).

Different sources in the aviation industry said the procrastination had led to SAA leasing back some of the Airbus nine A350-900 aircraft it had sold in 2020, to keep its place in the routes queue as competitors scramble for the licences it is not using.

“SAA just launched the Brazil route, next is Perth. SAA does not have the long-range aircraft for those destinations, they were waiting on the R3 billion from Takatso. So now they are leasing back the A9s (Airbus A350-900) they sold in 2020, just to hold the routes,” the source said.

SAA awaits a R3bn investment from Harith Investment, trading as the Takatso Consortium, to replenish its fleet as competitor to munch on its lunch.

“It is now a question of technicalities. It will not be easy for government to divest from the deal because they are committed, and if Takatso goes to court, there will be a lot to pay,” said an analyst on whether or not the Takatso Consortium deal would commence after Gordhan’s departure.

Industry insider Phuthego Mojapele said SAA was hard put to compete in a market of players keen to take over unutilised routes.

Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan last week threw in the towel in a battle to bar members of Parliament’s portfolio committee on public enterprises, which had for months sought clarity on the documents submitted by the Takatso Consortium in its interests on SAA.

Popular consensus among industry stakeholders was that the government would have to step up with another R2bn to R3bn subvention to the airline.

“SAA needs an injection of between R2bn to R3bn to buy aircraft the customers want from the offering of Emirates airlines are going for. Remember in 2020 when SAA revealed its plan for 45 aircraft for 2025. Something in the region of R3bn could revitalise that," Mojapele said.

SAA spokesperson Maistry confirmed that impending routes would be unveiled.