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Five top South African Airways “personnel”  will be given R10,500-a-day bodyguards as the airline prepares to announce massive job cuts.

A two-year deal with security company Control Risks will cost the airline — which lost R5.6-billion in the 2017 financial year — up to R35-million.

It is also spending tens of millions on  restructuring.

The bodyguard deal with Control Risks, which was implemented on March 1, was negotiated outside normal procurement processes by new SAA CEO Vuyani Jarana. 

Jarana’s attempt to hire other consultants from Bain & Co was rejected by the SAA board because they would come at a cost of R149-million, which was R90-million more than the second-placed bidder.

Jarana and his team, in an attempt to return the airline to profitability, are planning to cut routes, sell part of the business and retire the airline’s inefficient aircraft. 

This week the airline, which has announced the suspension of its chief financial officer Phumeza Nhantsi and former acting CEO Musa Zwane, said  media questions about the bodyguards and the retrenchment plan bore the hallmarks of [tooltip id=”4500c2f113202943ff1ae30d00c9d4ac”] [/tooltip]“a malicious campaign designed to distract SAA from implementing its turnaround strategy”.

“This [campaign] is being executed through a series of information leaks to the media calculated to impugn the reputation [and]  blemish the image and good names of those who insist on accountability and good governance at SAA,” said airline spokesman Tlali Tlali.  

He said the current board and the new leadership of SAA would not compromise on implementing the turnaround strategy. 

“We accept that those inside SAA who could be facing serious allegations of committing commercial crimes against the company as fingered in various forensic reports … [tooltip id=”4500c2f113202943ff1ae30d00c9d4ac”] [/tooltip] will fight through very sophisticated mechanisms to maintain the status quo in the airline,” he said.

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