Alpha-floor incident captain appointed as SAA Manager – Alf Lees

DA MP says there are reasons for concern regarding Captain Vusi Khumalo’s apparent appointment in this important position

Alpha-floor incident captain appointed as SAA Manager: Aviation Training Organisation

5 May 2022

Note to Editors: Please find attached soundbite by Alf Lees MP.

leaked copy of a SAA draft media statement reflects that Captain Vusi Khumalo has been or is to be appointed as the SAA Manager: Aviation Training Organisation.

The DA will submit a parliamentary question to the Minister of Public Enterprises, Pravin Gordhan, to establish whether or not Captain Khumalo has been or is to be appointed in this position and if so, to obtain details of:

The aviation training qualifications held by Captain Khumalo that make him a suitable person for appointment to this position;

Whether or not Captain Khumalo is and was the best available person to be appointed as the SAA Manager: Aviation Training Organisation; and

Whether or not Captain Khumalo was paid the Voluntary Severance Package (VSP) offered to SAA staff during the Business Rescue process? If so, what the procedure was that resulted in his re-employment at SAA, did he repay SAA for the VSP payments made to him?

These questions are vital to ensure that the safety of passengers flying on SAA is the highest priority at SAA.

There are various reasons for concern regarding Captain Khumalo’s appointment:

His role as the captain of the ill-fated SAA vanity flight to Brussels to collect Covid-19 vaccine on 24 February 2021. This flight suffered an alpha-floor incident on take-off from the Johannesburg OR Tambo airport. Despite the alpha-floor incident having clearly been a real incident as confirmed by the SACAA investigation, it was not reported within the required 72 hours. To make matters worse, the crew of the flight, including Captain Khumalo, apparently refused to participate in a meeting on 16 March 2021 during which the incident was to be discussed. They apparently claimed that the incident had not happened and that “the aircraft lied”.

On departure from Brussels, noise abatement procedures were violated as the aircraft was apparently accelerated past 200 knots whilst below 150 feet AGL whilst taking off from Brussels airport.

Captain Khumalo apparently has no aviation training qualifications.

Nearly a year after the dramatic announcement by Minister Gordhan that the Takatso consortium would be gifted with 51% shares of an asset rich and liability free SAA, the deal has still not been concluded. The details of the SAA/Takatso deal remain a closely guarded secret. What is known is that National Treasury is not happy with some of the terms and conditions contained in the agreement. Given information from a reliable source that SAA has been running at monthly losses in the region of R600 million, the DA will oppose the additional taxpayer bailouts that will likely be requested from Parliament by Minister Gordhan.

Issued by Alf Lees, DA Member of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts, 5 May 2022