A top executive at SAA has been accused by several sources of inappropriately dating an intern and giving her special treatment at work.
Saki Tlou, SAA’s technical adviser to the group CEO, is alleged to be romantically linked to Lerato Makaleng, an intern in the technical department.
She spent a year’s internship in China on an SAA programme.
Makaleng, from Brakpan in the East Rand, qualified as a tuner mechanist at SAA.
Tlou did not respond to City Press’ calls and text messages and Makaleng laughed off the allegations.
But two sources, one close to both Tlou and his wife Edna and another closer to Edna, spoke to City Press last week about the horrible fallout from the affair.
They independently said that they want to expose Tlou’s alleged infidelity because of the toll it has taken on the marriage, especially on Edna, who “is crying herself to sleep at night”, according to one.
The other said Tlou even chased Edna from their marital home because he wanted to spend time with Makaleng.
Edna later returned to the home.
When City Press approached Edna for comment, she said she was happily married and had nothing further to add, ending the phone call.
“Lerato got advanced at work twice while other interns who were part of the same SAA internship programme with her, were not,” said a fuming former employee, who believes that Makaleng is now permanently employed at SAA.
But SAA spokesperson Tlali Tlali strongly denied it, saying she is an intern.
He said it would be improper and unethical for any executive or senior manager to be romantically involved with staff, especially junior employees.
“We confirm that Makaleng is enrolled for an apprenticeship programme at SAA Technical. She is not an employee at SAA Technical and we are not aware of any intentions to promote her. There is no framework or any basis to even consider that promotion,” Tlali said.
But the sources say Makaleng gets special treatment and that she has “been given benefits of now working shifts on only five days a week whereas the rest of the students on the programme work for seven days”.
SAA’s Tlali denied the allegation, saying: “All apprentices are on five-day programme in a week. We stopped the overtime on weekend sessions with them a while ago. As far as it relates to Ms Makaleng, she is on the same schedule with the rest of her class.”
SAA sources, who do not wish to be named, alleged that the 42-year-old, who is also president and chairperson for the Aviation Chamber of Commerce SA, had been spending a lot of time with the 24-year-old since March last year.
On Friday Makaleng would neither confirm nor deny their affair.
“I am afraid I can’t help you, I have no comment. Please don’t call me again.”
Our well-placed sources made sensational accusations. They said the couple had been checking into various lavish hotels and going on vacation together, while the wife is having to run the household.
City Press has seen proof of payments for hotels and flights that Tlou booked and paid for both for himself and Makaleng.
One of the documents is a return ticket from Johannesburg to Durban dated July 22 last year, when Tlou and Makaleng were both passengers.
One of the sources told City Press that since coming back from China, Makaleng had been advanced in the workplace twice.
The source said Makaleng was one of the students scouted by Tlou from one of the Technical and Vocational Education and Training Colleges and he was also an overseer of the programme.
“It is still not clear whether their relationship started from then, but when she came back from the programme she used to boast to us, as her colleagues, saying Tlou was taking care of her, by blessing her with stipends and taking her on vacations,” the source said, adding that Makaleng “has verbal diarrhoea” and that was why everyone working at the technical department was aware of their affair.
It was only in April this year, according to sources, that Edna was going through their finances and got the shock of her life when she discovered Makaleng was saved as a banking beneficiary, establishing that there was more than one transaction made to Makaleng’s account every month for several months.
“She also discovered that her husband was loading airtime and data every month to two different numbers that belonged to his girlfriend,”said the source.
Another source said that one day Tlou came home and there was make-up all over his shirt and Edna did not wear make-up.
“The wife has confronted Tlou, but he has denied the affair to this day.”