“Given an opportunity, we are ready to take destiny into our own hands.”
So say the employees of the now defunct SA Express in an announcement that they were making a Binding Offer to purchase what remains of the airline.
The employees have all lost their jobs as the airline sank into disuse and abandonment. “It is our right to have a decent job with decent pay that would lift us back into the workforce,” says Thabsile Sikakane, spokesperson for Fly SAX, the acquiring entity which is bidding for SA Express.
Sikakane accused the government of being uncaring. “A caring government would have at least ensured that the morale of workers remained intact during this challenging time,” she said.
“A Special Purpose Vehicle Company has been incorporated as the Acquiring Entity and has bid for SA Express, which will be owned by a public limited company with the employees as owners. The capital raised will be structured through an equity funding model to finance and scale employee ownership conversions in a worker-centric and transformative way. The social capital will serve as a tool for real, transformative change in the ownership model.
The proposed funding model is one where the ultimate purpose would be to vest ownership in the workers. The goal is to create a vehicle that leaves more of the value with stakeholders, as well as anchor investors upon exit,” says the release. It adds that the employee shares-ownership plan will result in better productivity as the workers will be the owners,” said the statement.
“The benefits of accepting this funding model include, amongst other things, the possibility of the business enterprise being positioned to resume operations and result in saving a significant number of jobs through the avoidance of liquidation. There is also a shorter expected time to get returns and distributions to the creditors than would arise under the alternative liquidation scenario, and the unconditional consent to sell all assets of SA Express is disposed of for maximum value.”
"South Africa will see a genuine broad-based employee ownership plan which will be privately held and publicly traded. It will be founded on pro-public, democratic principles, and a fundamental framework of democratic ownership,” Sikakane said. “Nobody knows better how to run the airline than those who have spent their lives doing so.”
In February 2020, 19 months ago, the airline entered business rescue. Some of its assets have been sold since then.
One year ago, Fly SAX announced it would be launching a bid for the airline, using a mix of crowd funding and private capital. Liquidation has been delayed at least four times in order to accommodate this bid.