'No decision of this size could be done by one person': Dudu Myeni on Airbus

Dudu Myeni is testifying at the high court in Pretoria.
Dudu Myeni is testifying at the high court in Pretoria.
Image: Thapelo Morebudi/Sunday Times

Dudu Myeni says she cannot understand why she is being held accountable individually for decisions made by the SAA board as a whole during her tenure as chairperson of the board. 

Myeni is currently on trial at the high court in Pretoria after a delinquency application was brought by civil rights group Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) for alleged misconduct during her time running the airline.

Among other things, Myeni is accused of putting an end to a multibillion-rand transaction with Airbus to secure five aircraft that SAA would have used for international routes, but Myeni said this big decision could not rest with one person.

Outa’s legal representative Carol Steinberg put it to Myeni that even after the then finance minister Nhlanhla Nene had approved the deal in 2015, Myeni refused for the deal to be signed.

Steinberg read out a letter sent to Myeni in 2015, outlining the disastrous consequences if a decision was not taken.

Myeni agreed that she was aware of the consequences as outlined in the e-mail but said it was up to the board to sign and conclude the deal.

Dudu Myeni was taken to court by civil rights group Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) for alleged misconduct during her time at SAA. She appeared at the Palace of Justice in Pretoria on February 20 2020. The aim of the case is to have Myeni declared a delinquent director in terms of the Companies Act.

“It’s a pity I have to answer for the board and they are not here to answer for themselves. Today I’m the only one here as an individual and now must account for decisions we made as a collective. What I can say to you is that no decision of this size could be done by one person. I believe there was a reason as the matter was unfolding that made the board to agree why we could not sign at the moment,” Myeni said.

Judge Ronel Tolmay however pushed her to answer and clarify why, as the chairperson of the board, she delayed the Airbus deal being signed, even after getting approval from the then minister of finance.

Myeni maintained her stance and said it’s a pity she’s been held accountable for decisions of the board.

She then told the court she would have to go through minutes of the meetings and see why the board could not sign. She said she would go through this during the next court break.

Meanwhile, a small group of people supporting Myeni at court were accused of harassing Outa's legal team on Friday afternoon.

Counsel for Outa told the judge they were worried for their safety after being verbally attacked during the lunch adjournment.

The judge described it as unfortunate, advising that because this was not a criminal matter, a special request must be made to police for extra security, if required.

Tolmay asked Myeni that if she had influence on the conduct of the group, she request that they refrain from acting that way.

“I'm not saying you had anything to do with what happened, but please talk to them,” she said.

Tolmay asked everyone to respect the constitution.

“Emotions can easily run high in cases of this nature but I ask everyone to respect the court,” Tolmay said.


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