Dudu Myeni. Picture: GCIS
Dudu Myeni. Picture: GCIS

Dudu Myeni has left the board of South African Airways (SAA) — and she has not gone quietly.

In an "exclusive" interview with The New Age, published on Friday, she took shots at Pravin Gordhan, with whom she butted heads when he was finance minister; Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa; ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe; forensic investigator Paul O’Sullivan; and Coleman Andrews, the airline’s former CEO who left way back in 2001 with a more than R200m golden handshake that drew an outcry at the time.

Emphasising that she was not fired but that her term as chairwoman had simply come to an end, she told the newspaper — owned by former government spin doctor Mzwanele Manyi, who bought it from the Guptas in a vendor-financed deal — that her best efforts to turn the airline around and transform it were stymied.

Myeni said Gordhan had gagged her, and that was why she was speaking only now. Gordhan was fired as finance minister seven months ago, however.

On transformation, she bemoaned the fact that most of SAA’s procurement was from Bidvest. She then named Bidvest owners she apparently considers problematic but, rather than being bastions of the white business establishment, they were Gordhan, Mantashe’s wife Nolwandle Mantashe (Mantashe said neither he nor his wife own Bidvest shares) and Ramaphosa.

Reaching back into the mists of time, she said the rot at the airline began with Andrews.

The background to that is that when Andrews, an American, joined in 1998, the airline had posted a R300m loss. He left quite abruptly in April 2001, with 14 months of his contract left and shortly before the airline posted a record revenue and profit. His tenure was not without controversy and opinions on his performance and management style were mixed, but he did restore the airline to profitability and more than quadrupled its valuation.

Myeni told The New Age she had initiated a forensic investigation of the airline, and this led to an "onslaught from the media" and letters from O’Sullivan asking her to resign.

She says that, after O’Sullivan circulated documents suggesting she had billions in foreign bank accounts, and she responded through her lawyer, he withdrew his demand that she resign and offered to pay R50,000 in damages.

O’Sullivan denied the allegation and responded in full in an e-mail.

Myeni told The New Age it would "shock" people to learn what the forensic investigation had "unravelled".

In a strange non sequitur, she is quoted as saying: "As soon as the investigation was launched, routes that had supposedly dried up opened with millions suddenly flowing. Black pilots are still paid less than white pilots. When I spoke out I was vilified."

Myeni makes no mention in the interview of SAA’s finances, or of the appointment of BNP Capital, a little-known Johannesburg company appointed as a transaction adviser — and subsequently as a fundraiser for the airline — following a board resolution that waived tender procedures, despite advice from SAA’s own treasury that the service could be provided for far less.

The arrangement would have seen BNP Capital score a success fee of 1.5% of funds sourced plus value added tax (VAT), calculated to be R256m. SAA’s treasury had estimated, on the basis of market information that, at most, transaction fees would be R85m.

SAA later cancelled the deal with BNP following legal threats by lobby group the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa), which also said the Financial Services Board (FSB) had revoked BNP Capital’s operating licence shortly before its deal with SAA.

Myeni has been replaced by Johannes Bhekumuzi Magwaza as the chairman while Geoff Rothschild‚ Ahmed Bassa‚ Tinyiko Mhlari and Martin Kingston were appointed on to the new board as nonexecutive directors.

Nonexecutive directors from the old board who remain on the new board are Bajabulile Swazi Tshabalala, Peter Tshisevhe, Thandeka Nozipho Mgoduso, Peter Holmes Maluleka and Akhter Hoosen Moosa.

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