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Swiss baggage handler in BEE row

The Daily Dispatch logo The Daily Dispatch 2018-08-06 PENELOPE MASHEGO AND ASHA SPECKMAN

All suppliers have had perhaps as many as 24 years to come to terms with what real transformation means

An international spat is brewing over the country’s black economic empowerment laws as Swiss-owned baggage handler Swissport takes on the state-owned Airports Company South Africa (Acsa) over black shareholding requirements for a ground-handling tender.

Swissport CEO Peter Kohl, in an affidavit filed with the South Gauteng High Court last month, requested that the court review, correct or set aside Acsa’s invitation for contractor proposals for licences to provide ground-handling services at the company’s airports, which include OR Tambo and Cape Town international airports.

Swissport, which has provided ground-handling services at six of SA’s airports since 1998, accused the airports company of employing an unlawful procurement process as it did not structure the invitation in accordance with the Preferential Procurement Policy Framework Act and the constitution.

Kohl said a black ownership clause in the invitation was one of the main issues Swissport had with the procurement process. The clause stipulates that bidders commit to 51% black ownership at the first anniversary of the licence agreement, which must be maintained for the duration of the licence.

He said Swissport’s parent company would prefer not to increase the company’s broad-based black economic empowerment (B-BBEE) ownership to 51%, as per the invitation’s requirement, because the requirement had been unlawfully imposed.

He added that the parent company was also loath to relinquish management control of Swissport because this was not in line with its governance oversight of its local subsidiaries.

Swissport operates in SA with 51% majority holding, with the balance of the shares held by empowerment partner Clidet. While it waits for the outcome of the court process, Swissport has submitted a bid according to the black ownership clause.

“Acsa has presented Swissport with little choice: if Swissport refrains from bidding or if Swissport submits a noncompliant bid then its business operations in SA will come to an end,” Kohl said.

In response to Swissport’s application, Acsa said it could not rely on the act for guidance because ground-handling services are provided to airlines and not to Acsa, and therefore Acsa does not enter into a contract directly with ground-handling companies, but facilitates this service for airlines.

“All suppliers have had perhaps as many as 24 years to come to terms with what real transformation means,” Acsa said in response to queries from Business Times. – BusinessLIVE

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