Novick’s Takatso departure shouldn’t be taken ‘too seriously’ – Gordhan

Department of Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan says Gidon Novick’s resignation from the Takatso Consortium board, as well as his reasons for doing so should not be taken “too seriously” because Novick “was a small and minor partner in the consortium.”

Gordhan – along with some South African Airways (SAA) executives – were briefing the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) on the state of the national carrier’s affairs, in Parliament on Tuesday.

Gordhan’s comments come after reports of Novick’s resignation as director on the consortium’s board on Monday, citing a lack of information around the progress of the deal, the consortium’s ability to raise the capital committed and the team’s future role in the business, according to News24. Further reports added that Novick felt the lack of access to information had made his role as director on the board difficult and impractical.

Not my job

However, according to Gordhan, maintaining communication with Novick and his partners is not his job, adding that this is a role that should be taken on by the majority partners in the deal. Further noting that government has maintained communication with the relevant entities regarding the progress of the SAA sale to Takatso.

“To the question about who has DPE been talking to, clearly we have been talking to the majority partner and its up to the majority partner to ensure that whoever else is involved on the side – whether its technical backup people or the drivers or their partners – to keep them informed about what is going on,” Gordhan said.

Takatso Consortium – the entity primed to soon take ownership of a majority stake (51%) in SAA – is made up of local aircraft leasing firm Global Aviation as well as Harith General Partners, a pan-African investor in African infrastructure.

Aviation industry heavyweight, Novick also has ties to Global Aviation through the leasing company’s ties with low-cost airline Lift which Novick is the joint CEO of alongside Jonathan Ayache.

Gordhan further added that Novick’s departure from the Takatso board as director has brought some relief as now without Novick, the SAA deal avoids potential chatter of conflict of interest.

“There is a sense of relief as well because there was a potential conflict of interest developing in the sense that if there was, let’s call it, SAA information put into the same pot from which another airline was also feeding off, the Chinese wall if you like between them would disappear,” he said.

Gordhan further added that government cannot afford to be roped into issues of the Consortium, further adding that the consortium members should “sort out their own problems”.


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SAA is still a go

Amid fears that Novick’s departure may jeopardize the sealing of the SAA deal, the minister reassured Scopa members that everything remains on track to successfully conclude the SAA sale to Takatso. The deal, which was first announced 18 months ago, is however yet to be finalised.

As part of the deal, Takatso is expected to invest about R3 billion into the carrier over the next three years. Should the consortium fail to deliver on this, Gordhan says the deal will be pulled off the table.

“Enough work was done and will continue to be done – in interaction with them by DPE – to ensure that they do have te capacity to raise the R3 billion within the period they have committed to. If they can’t show the money, there is no deal and there might be other possibilities that we have to explore instead.”