It’s about as scary as it gets. This weekend the South African Sunday Times revealed that a subsidiary of South African Airways (SAA) – Mango – flight from Johannesburg to Cape Town suddenly nosedived, forcing the pilot to make an emergency landing in Johannesburg.

The passengers were terrified. And they were right to be. The nosedive has been blamed on a defective part in the Mango Airlines’ Boeing 737, fitted by the maintenance subsidiary, SAA Technical.

SAA Technical provides all major maintenance for SAA, as well as a number of major European, African and Middle Eastern airlines.

Speaking to the Sunday Times, SAA said it had been infiltrated by an international crime syndicate that had looted hundreds of millions of rands through questionable tenders which include the supply of “possibly suspect” parts.

The report further claimed that it was in possession of a document that revealed that aircrafts parts worth R25 million disappeared from SAA technical stores while forensic investigators were finalising their report. The memorandum reportedly said the missing parts showed that this was an inside job.

British Airways may have had a tip-off about what was going on: BA recently announced that it would not be making use of SAA’s technical division any longer.

SAA’s pilots have no confidence in the management of the airline. A survey of the airline’s pilots found found that 91% rated SAA management to be “poor” or “extremely poor”. The pilots are threatening to strike to enforce a higher standard within SAA.

SAA – once among Africa’s most successful airlines – has been gutted by corruption and poor management and now only survives because of state handouts.

Ethiopian airlines are now considering taking a stake in SAA.