Dudu Myeni. Picture: SUPPLIED
Dudu Myeni. Picture: SUPPLIED

A lawyer for South African Airways (SAA) chairwoman Dudu Myeni, who stood accused of misrepresenting a board decision about the purchase of 10 aircraft from Airbus in 2013, said on Monday she had "innocently made a mistake" in communications with then public enterprises minister Malusi Gigaba.

Myeni was asked to explain herself by the Companies and Intellectual Properties Commission (CIPC) in November 2016 and was issued with a compliance notice. The minutes of a May 2013 board meeting and the related board resolution concerning the transaction were requested in the notice.

While Myeni complied with the compliance notice, she now wants it overturned to expunge it from her record as a director.

Myeni’s lawyer Francois van Zyl appeared before the Companies Tribunal in Pretoria on Monday to argue her case.

Van Zyl claimed she had complied with the compliance notice under protest because she feared she would face prosecution if she did not do so.

Having the compliance notice declared null and void is an attempt by Myeni to clean up her record as a director.

Adv Robin Pearse for the CIPC said that Myeni had missed her opportunity to confirm, modify or set aside the notice as it had to be done within 15 business days.

Myeni, a close President Jacob Zuma ally, has been facing public criticism over her conduct as a director.

Finance Minister Gigaba indicated last week her contract would not be renewed.

On Monday, Pearse also accused Myeni of making misrepresentations to Gigaba in 2013 when he was minister of public enterprises.

In May 2013, Myeni told Gigaba the SAA board had resolved to lease two aircraft. But the board resolution had read 10 aircraft would be leased. After being confronted by the board, Myeni wrote to him, saying the SAA had planned to purchase 10 aircraft.

Pearse argued Myeni had not told the minister she had made a mistake, but rather claimed the national carrier’s board had made another resolution, which led to 10 planes being purchased, instead of two.

"The minister had been misled and the board had been misrepresented to the shareholder partner," said Pearse.

"She didn’t say: ‘I was mistaken’," he said.

Van Zyl, for Myeni, however, said the chairwoman in her affidavit had admitted that it had been a "mistake".

He said even the CIPC was not sure if Myeni had acted intentionally, and so good faith had to come into play.

Van Zyl said Myeni had sought to do her job by informing the minister of events, which meant she acted "bona fide" and that her letter to Gigaba had no consequences.

"The question is, did she do so on purpose, intentionally, as the respondent [CIPC] says, or did she do so innocently, by mistake?" Van Zyl asked.

Judgment in the matter has been reserved.

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