The court order has amplified the SAA story much more, as well as the public’s dismay at what’s happening at the airline, writes Ryk van Niekerk.
The financial woes of embattled airline South African Airways (SAA) are no secret to the general public, and have been the focus of multiple news reports in various publications and digital platforms over the past few weeks.
In fact, the problems at SAA have been in the spotlight for several years, as it has become a regular occurrence to see a new acting CEO stand cap in hand before the treasury minister for yet another multi-billion rand financial bailout.
The airline also doesn’t do a very good job at keeping sensitive documents secret and many questionable practices and policies regularly find their way into the media.
I was therefore extremely surprised on Tuesday morning when I saw the email detailing the interdict that ordered the removal of Moneyweb’s article based on a legal opinion prepared by SAA general manager for legal, risk and compliance, Ursula Fikelepi.
In fact, when I read the article by Antoinette Slabbert I did not for one moment think that it would cause any hullabaloo, as it merely highlighted another source of the publicised problems facing the airline.
What made the interdict even more unexpected was that the information contained in the article had been in the public domain since Sunday.
Any interdict would to my mind therefore be inconsequential as it is impossible to ‘unpublish’ information that has been published in the digital domain. This desperate effort to suck back the information from the public domain is nothing more than a futile exercise.
The interdict also had very little prospect of success to keep additional information about the document from reaching the public domain. For example, it appears the court order was issued after the final printed copy of Business Day had been dispatched for distribution from its printers in Industria, with the result that the interdicted story was on many readers’ doorsteps that morning.
SAA synonymous with poor governance
The sad reality is that the public perception of SAA’s governance structures has deteriorated to such a low that little information coming from the national carrier can surprise on the downside.
What is possibly worse than the term ‘technically insolvent‘ frequently being alongside reports of wasteful expenditure, questionable procurement directives, a revolt by the company’s pilots and the cowboy-like conduct of the chairperson?
It is therefore ironic that SAA’s Fikelepi states the following in her founding affidavit:
“The opinion makes reference to highly confidential information of a very sensitive nature. That information has the potential of causing real and serious reputational and financial damage to the applicant and the government of the RSA.”
It is the board of SAA itself which has, over the past few months, already succeeded in causing “real and serious reputational and financial damage” to SAA.
It is also ironic because if SAA did not bring the court application, the article would have just been another negative article about the airline. The court order has made this story much bigger and amplifies the public’s dismay at what is actually happening at the airline.
Moneyweb, together with Media24 and Business Day, will contest this court order. The content is most definitely in the public interest and needs to be (re)published.
This story was first published by Moneyweb.
IMAGE: Wikimedia public domain