South African Airways Names Kalawe as Fourth CEO in Six Months

South African Airways Ltd., the continent’s biggest airline, has appointed Monwabisi Kalawe as its fourth chief executive officer in six months and put him in charge of returning the ailing company to profit.

Kalawe, 51, will be “custodian of the turnaround strategy” of the partly state-owned carrier and will start on a five-year contract, Public Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba told reporters in Johannesburg today.

Kalawe, the managing director of food company Compass Group Plc’s Southern Africa unit, will become the airline’s third CEO since Siza Mzimela resigned in the wake of a dispute between board members and the government last October. Vuyisile Kona was was suspended in February because of “certain allegations” that were not specified, while Nico Bezuidenhout, CEO of the company’s low-cost Mango unit, has been in charge on an interim basis since then.

SAA, as the carrier is known, posted a pretax loss of 1.36 billion rand ($148.4 million) for the year ending March 2012 compared with a profit of 792 million rand a year earlier, according to its annual report. The government gave the airline a 5 billion rand debt guarantee in October to ensure it can borrow from financial markets to support a recovery.

The airline needs to buy between 25 and 35 new wide body aircraft as part of the turnaround strategy, Bezuidenhout said in an interview. SAA links South Africa to several 38 destinations worldwide including London, New York and Singapore.

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