Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan during the 2017 Budget media briefing held at Imbizo Centre in Cape Town.23/02/2017 Kopano Tlape GCIS

Leaked letter to SAA unveils Mkhwebane’s probe into Gordhan Mango ‘meddling’

The confidential letter was sent to Thandeka Mgoduso, the Acting Chairperson of the SAA Board.


Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan during the 2017 Budget media briefing held at Imbizo Centre in Cape Town.23/02/2017 Kopano Tlape GCIS

A three-page letter that leaked on social media shows details of how Public Protector, Busisiwe Mkhwebane, has attempted to solicit information from SAA on the involvement of Pravin Gordhan in the appointment of Nico Bezuidenhout, the CEO of Mango Airlines.

What we know about Mkhwebane’s probe into Gordhan

Nico Bezuidenhout was announced as the CEO of Mango Airlines, a subsidiary of SAA, in May, much to the dissatisfaction of many, who believed that Public Enterprises Minister, Gordhan, had influenced the appointment.

This was Bezuidenhout’s return to his old job. Five years ago, he was forced to resign after his ‘overstated’ qualifications were probed. As it turns out, the Mango Airlines CEO, who banks an estimated R3.5-million per annum, got the coveted job with a matric certificate..

The outrage that followed his re-instalment into the state parastatal was exacerbated by the fact that it was believed Gordhan had allegedly forced the appointment on SAA.

In a recent IOL News report, SAA insiders had allegedly claimed that the minister instructed Peter Tshisevhe, Mango’s Board Chiarperson, to overlook Comair joint chief executive Glenn Orsmond (who, on paper was the perfect candidate) and appoint Bezuidenhout.

According to the EFF, this constituted overreach and a breach of the Executive Ethics code.

“He handpicked his friend at Eskom, Mr Jabu Mabuza, who is now Acting CEO, chairman and supplier of the power utility, and now handpicked Mango CEO because he knows very well that he can undermine their authority and independence without consequence,” the party had noted in a statement issued in October.

The party vowed to write to the Public Protector, demanding “a thorough investigation nto his illegal conduct.”

What is the basis of the accusation?

On Friday, Eskom’s former Acting CEO, Matshela Koko, leaked a three-page letter, allegedly sent from the office of the Public Protector.

The letter is apparently addressed to Thandeka Mgoduso, the Acting Chairperson of the SAA Board. In it, Mkhwebane, who is signed as the scribe of the letter, notes that her office received a complaint from EFF deputy president, Floyd Shivambu, calling on the Public Protector, to investigate “whether Gordhan violated the Executive Ethics code and his oath of office through his involvement in the appointment of Bezuidenhout as the CEO of Mango.”

In the letter, Mkhwebane apparently informs Mgoduso that Shivambu, on behalf of the EFF, believes:

  • Gordhan’s involvement in the appointment of Bezuidenhout is unqualified;
  • the lie about Bezuidenhout’s qualifications is inconsistent with Gordhan’s office;
  • Gordhan had exposed himself to a situation involving a risk of conflict between his responsibilities and private interest as required by section 96(1) and (2) of the Constitution;
  • Gordhan used his position to appoint Bezuidenhout; and
  • he used his position and privileged information entrusted to him, to improperly benefit Bezuidenhout.

What information does Public Protector need from SAA?

Going with the contents of the letter, if it is, indeed, authentic, then it would seem that Mkhwebane has attempted to solicit information from Mgoduso on the appointemtn of the Mango CEO. In the letter, she asked Mgoduso to provide:

  • a detailed response to the allegations raised by Shivambu;
  • all copies of recruitment records of Bezuidenhout, including advertisement for the CEO position;
  • approved panel for shortlisting and interviews;
  • approved names of shortlisted candidates;
  • declaration of interets of interview panel members;
  • candidates’ score sheets;
  • list of preferred candidate or candidates for the post;
  • request for approval of recommended candidate; and
  • letter of appointment for the successful candidate

The letter is dated Friday, 15 November, and Mgoduso has been given a maximum of 30 days to respond to it.

In an attempt to verify the contents of the letter and its validity, we reached out to Oupa Segalwe, the Public Protector’s spokesperson. Segalwe reliably informed us that the letter was, indeed, legitimate and the contents of it were, as Koko claimed, meant for Mgoduso.

Segalwe slammed those responsible for leaking the letter, claiming that it places the lives of those who cooperate with the Public Protector in the line of danger.

“We discourage the sharing of such documents on social media or anywhere they were not meant for. This could compromise the investigation and put respondents on blast in a court of public opinion.

“It also reveals the details of our investigators. This makes them uncomfortable and compromises their safety,” he said.