The business rescuer of South Africa's Mango Airlines (MNO, Johannesburg O.R. Tambo) is going ahead with the sale of the provisionally liquidated state-owned budget carrier to the Ubuntu Aviation Consortium after the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) dismissed the government's last-ditch effort to stop the sale.

Sipho Sono told ch-aviation he was now free to implement the deal after two SCA judges on March 14 rejected the government's late appeal against an earlier High Court order compelling a decision on the sale. The appeals court dismissed with costs the petition from the ministers of finance and public enterprises, the National Treasury, and the Department of Public Enterprises, saying there was no "reasonable prospect of success in an appeal" and "no compelling reason why the appeal should be granted".

Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan had earlier failed to meet a deadline set by the High Court in Pretoria to decide on the proposed sale as required by the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA), which governs such entities.

"Basically there's not much the minister can do [now] because the PFMA Section 54(3) deeming provision kicked in, and he was deemed to have approved the application. Even if he were to petition the Concourt [Constitutional Court], it would be academic as courts cannot alter the operation of law. We will now move with speed to implement," Sono said, adding that he would clarify with his lawyers if he needed to wait until April 5, the date he had previously agreed to hold back on signing the Sale of Shares agreement with Ubuntu Air Services.

"I've waited over a year to get this far," he pointed out.

Sono accepted an offer from Ubuntu Air Services on August 26, 2022, but for months has been locked in legal battles with Gordhan, who refused to decide on the deal, insisting on more information on the bidder's corporate structure, due diligence performed on the company, and its business plan.

Ubuntu Air Services is backed by AfricaStay, a family-owned tour operator selling leisure destinations in South Africa and the Indian Ocean islands, Zanzibar (Tanzania), and Livingstone (Zambia). The company has said that acquiring Mango is a strategic opportunity to diversify and complement its existing business.

The offer entails paying ZAR1,000 rand (USD53) for the sale of the shares and ZAR1 million (USD53,400) for share subscriptions. Ubuntu Air Services will also assume Mango Airlines' ZAR169 million (USD9 million) unflown ticket liabilities, converting it into ticket vouchers redeemable over 12 months. The proposal includes injecting ZAR30 million (USD1.6 million) for start-up and working capital, with an option for an additional ZAR20 million (USD1.1 million) for guaranteed deposits. Ubuntu Air Services intends to sell an aircraft engine Mango owns for an estimated USD3 million (USD160,000) with proceeds mainly going to creditors. The plan also involves injecting an extra ZAR100 million (USD5.34 million) into regional and domestic flights. Once the airline becomes sustainable, there's an option to sell 25% to an international airline for additional capital.