Allegations stack up against Dudu Myeni in 'delinquent director' case

Dudu Myeni
Image: Gallo Images

Former SAA chairperson Dudu Myeni allegedly sent a fake letter to Airbus‚ stalling a deal that could have saved the national carrier more than R2bn a year.

This was revealed during an application being heard at the high court in Pretoria to declare Myeni a delinquent director.

eNCA reported on Friday that former SAA chief commercial officer Sylvain Bosc said the executive at SAA had decided to cancel a deal‚ agreed to 15 years earlier with Airbus‚ as it was becoming too expensive to continue with it.

This resulted in a swap transaction‚ which meant instead of acquiring 10 aircraft from Airbus‚ the national carrier would lease five newer aircraft and phase out some of its older ones. This could have saved the airline US $150m (R2.2bn) a year.

Bosc testified that Myeni‚ however‚ sent a letter to Airbus stating that SAA would instead engage an African aircraft-leasing company to take over the deal from Airbus.

“That for me was a fraud. It was a shock‚ this is a forged board resolution‚ it's an attempt to change a transaction that’s been months in the making and it's full of inconsistencies‚ lies and irregularities and this is emanating from the chairperson of the board of one of the largest SOEs in South Africa‚” Bosc said.

In 2017‚ the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) and the SAA Pilots' Association brought the application to declare Myeni a delinquent director in terms of the Companies Act‚ based on actions while she was chairperson of the SAA board.

If declared such‚ Myeni would not be able to be a director in any entity.

The first witness called by the organisations in the case was Nico Bezuidenhout‚ current CEO of Mango Airlines.

Bezuidenhout was acting CEO of SAA from January to June 2013 and again from November 2014 to July 2015. Myeni chaired SAA at all material times.

Bezuidenhout testified on how Myeni allegedly scuppered a $100m-a-year Emirates deal.

Emirates had‚ in January 2015‚ approached SAA with a strategic partnership proposal that included an annual revenue guarantee to SAA of $100m and other benefits.

These benefits included guaranteeing that Emirates limited its strategic partnerships in the region and addressing SAA’s overstaffing problem.

Bezuidenhout noted that while the memorandum of understanding (MOU) was nonbinding it was of vast importance.

SAA was in dire financial straits‚ so the public signing of an MOU with the largest airline in the world – with a strategic partnership modelled on a proven relationship between Qantas and Emirates – would have greatly increased investor confidence in SAA.

Bezuidenhout said for this strategic partnership to come to fruition‚ a non-binding memorandum of understanding was approved by every board member except Myeni‚ who provided no formal reason for her disapproval.

Bezuidenhout stated that Myeni raised concerns that Emirates was attempting to buy SAA‚ an allegation without substance but one that nonetheless saw a safeguard clause included in the draft MOU.

However‚ Outa indicated that Nqabayethu Buthelezi‚ Myeni's advocate‚ said he would prove that the Emirates deal was a “sham”‚ that it was unlawful and that Bezuidenhout had acted unlawfully.

The hearing continues.

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