South African Airways (SAA) has appointed a new interim chief executive and interim chairman, the country's department of public enterprises has confirmed.

Vuyisile Kona will serve as acting chief executive until a permanent appointment is made in early 2013, replacing Siza Mzimela, who stepped down in October.

Kona will therefore relinquish his role as executive chairperson, which will temporarily be filled by Duduzile Myeni.

"One of the critical responsibilities that the acting chairperson will be expected to embark upon is to reinforce leadership stability at SAA and initiate a robust recruitment process for the appointment of the new CEO, to ensure continuity in the airline's business operations," the office of minister Malusi Gigaba says in a statement.

Mzimela's resignation followed a spate of departures by non-executive directors, prompting speculation about the relationship between the airline's board and its government owners.

Minister Gigaba responded by announcing a turnaround "task team" that will explore the strategic options for restructuring the flag carrier ahead of the new chief executive's appointment next year.

"It is important to note that the establishment of the task team does not replace the board's decision-making process, nor does it absolve the board of its fiduciary role and responsibility," Gigaba's office says in the statement. "The board is still expected to be the custodian of the long-term strategy."

In October, the South African government approved a 5 billion rand ($577 million) guarantee for the airline, provoking criticism from private operator Comair.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news