Former South African Airways (SAA) board chairperson Dudu Myeni invoked then president Jacob Zuma’s name to force senior executives to carry out her orders during her six years at the helm of the national carrier, the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture heard on Thursday…
SAA chief commercial director Sylvain Bosc made the observation while he was being cross examined by Myeni’s legal counsel, Nqabayethu Buthelezi, IOL reported.
Buthelezi had asked him about the veracity of the claims that the cancellation of a R1.5 billion deal with Emirates was on instructions from Zuma. The lawyer said Myeni would testify that she never said as much to SAA CEO Nico Bezuidenhout on June 16, 2015, and had in fact told him to to sign the deal because the board had not voted on it.
He added that a WhatsApp message Myeni sent to Bezuidenhout saying “We did not approve” was not in reference to Zuma but to the board and asked Bosc why he did not state in his submission that the agreement between the two airlines had fallen through because of instructions from the former president.
Bosc replied that he had not spoken directly to Myeni but was not surprised when Bezuidenhout told him in Paris that the decision to pull out of the deal had emanated from Zuma.
“I was not surprised by it. Ms Dudu Myeni always invoked the name of the former head of state. She did that after the former president of Sudan Bashir Al-Omar left South Africa following reports that he was to be arrested in the country.
“I was not surprised by it. Ms Dudu Myeni always invoked the name of the former head of state. She did that after the former president of Sudan Bashir Al-Omar left South Africa following reports that he was to be arrested in the country.”
“Bashir Al-Omar was already out of the country. Ms Myeni approached me and told me that I should create a direct flight route from South Africa to Khartoum in Sudan. I told her we can’t, it won’t be a profitable route for the country.
“In her reply, she said: ‘This is the order of the President’,” Bosc said.
According to him, there were numerous other instances where Zuma’s name was mentioned, but Buthelezi did not take the matter any further.
Bosc has also told the commission that Myeni tried to block a lease agreement with Airbus, and wanted an “undisclosed and unnamed” African aircraft leasing company to deal with Airbus on behalf of SAA.
Buthelezi is expected to grill him on this when cross examination continues on Friday.
The Airbus and Emirates deals were two of Myeni’s most controversial decisions as chairwoman, with the first resulting in a bitter clash with National Treasury because of the penalties it would trigger.
The commission has throughout the week heard explosive testimony on dealings at SAA. Former acting SAA CEO Vuyisile Kona testified that he was suspended because he refused to be bribed or swayed by the Gupta family, who are seen as being key players in the rent-seeking scandal that cost state-owned enterprises billions of rands.