South African Airways suspends Treasurer amid management turmoil

South African Airways suspended Treasurer Cynthia Stimpel pending an investigation into a misconduct charge, the latest in a wave of disciplinary proceedings that have caused management upheaval at the unprofitable state-owned carrier.

Stimpel’s actions amount to a “breach of SAA’s code of ethics and conduct,” spokesman Tlali Tlali said in e-mailed comments on Wednesday, without giving further detail about the charge. The Treasurer has been “suspended and not dismissed,” he said.

Stimpel had objected to SAA’s decision to award Johannesburg-based BnP Capital a contract to advise on the restructuring of 15 billion rand ($1 billion) of debt, Business Day newspaper reported on July 7, citing an e-mail she sent to acting Chief Financial Officer Phumeza Nhantsi. The arrangement will see BnP paid a success fee of 256 million rand, about three times what the airline’s treasury had estimated, according to the newspaper. SAA Chairman Dudu Myeni, an associate of President Jacob Zuma, was among boardmembers who voted to hire BnP without a tender, Business Day said.

Stimpel’s suspension “has nothing whatsoever to do with objections she is alleged to have made on the BnP Capital matter,” Tlali said.

SAA, which is surviving on government-guaranteed loans, has this year suspended former acting Chief Executive Officer Thuli Mpshe and put acting Chief Procurement Officer Masimba Dahwa on special leave. Other recent management changes include the departure of CFO Wolf Meyer, who was replaced on an acting basis by Nhantsi, and Chief Strategy Officer Barry Parsons. Musa Zwane, the head of SAA’s maintenance unit, was named acting CEO in November.