South Africa

Mango sale to forge head despite Gordhan’s efforts

Mango airlines sale

The business rescue practitioner of defunct low-cost airline Mango confirmed on Friday morning that Ubuntu Air Services is the company that wants to buy it. Sipho Sono confirmed to The Citizen that the company named in court papers was the preferred bidder.

Ubuntu Air Services is a partnership between one of South Africa’s largest tour operators, Africa Stay, and DG Capital. Trade publication CH-Aviation speculated about the identity of the preferred bidder last year, but until now events have been overshadowed by Gordhan’s consistent efforts to scupper any kind of deal.

Gordhan blocked sale of Mango

Gordhan blocked the sale of Mango last year citing that he had not received enough information to sign off on the deal. Sono took him to court and won. That effectively forced the minister to sign off on the deal within 30 days of its submission to his office or forfeit his influence.

ALSO READ: Judge rules on sale of Mango; calls Gordhan’s actions irrational

Gordhan appealed the matter, failed in the High Court, and went to the Supreme Court of Appeal. “Public Enterprises Minister (Gordhan) was left with two options. On the one hand, the minister was entitled to file a petition to the Supreme Court of Appeal within one month from 13 December 2023, which would have automatically suspended the operation and execution of the principal judgment,” Sono’s update read.

Mango sale to go ahead

Gordhan failed to deliver his petition on deadline. “The business rescue practitioner sought legal advice and was informed that where a petition has been belatedly filed the principal judgment’s order continues to remain operational as a condonation application does not suspend the operation and execution of any order. This then means that the principal judgment is not suspended and remains executable notwithstanding the existence of the belated petition.”

Sono has a free hand to dispose of Mango, for now. The Supreme Court of Appeal is Gordhan’s last chance to stop the Mango deal. The business rescue update warned: “In the event that the transaction or investor process … fails for whatever reason, the business rescue practitioner will implement the wind-down process that is already incorporated in the adopted business rescue plan.”

ALSO READ: Gordhan will not be ‘bullied’ into rushing sale of Mango

Mango went into business rescue in mid-2021 with the company blaming various external factors, including the Covid pandemic, for its demise. Since then, the disposal of Mango became a hot potato with speculation alleging that Gordhan intended to sink the airline permanently because of its potential threat to Lift, related to two former Takatso consortium members.

Lift’s founder Gidon Novick is no longer part of the consortium, but industry professionals now say that a revitalised Mango could further challenge any kind of SAA recovery. The flag carrier is already back on a losing streak despite upbeat spin from its principals.

ALSO READ: ‘He’s made a mess of SAA sale’ – Ramaphosa urged to fire Gordhan over Takatso deal