Yakhe Kwinana testifies before the Zondo commission in Johannesburg, November 2 2020. Picture: PAPI MORAKE/GALLO IMAGES
Yakhe Kwinana testifies before the Zondo commission in Johannesburg, November 2 2020. Picture: PAPI MORAKE/GALLO IMAGES

State capture commission chair Raymond Zondo’s patience on Monday was tested to the limit by an evasive former SAA Technical (SAAT) board chair Yakhe Kwinana.

Kwinana was grilled about her involvement in tender irregularities at the airline during her tenure at the airline. She was also a board member at SAA and served as the chair of the audit committee.

The focus of the cross-examination was her relationship with businessman Vuyo Ndzeku, her approval of a contract to Swissport without an open tender and the cancellation of a tender awarded to LSG Sky Chefs in favour of SAA’s Air Chefs.

She was evasive and noticeably hostile to  evidence leader advocate Kate Hofmeyr.

Zondo had to intervene on several occasions, warning her to answer questions or risk an adverse finding by the commission.

“You are not doing justice to yourself. You are a pro, a chartered accountant. I do not know how many times I have explained simple things to be fair to you saying please answer the questions that are being asked,” Zondo told her.

On Monday, she was asked about the cancellation of the contract that had been won by LSG Sky Chefs. The multimillion-rand contract for catering services was awarded to Sky Chefs by SAA management. But the airline's board reversed the decision, instead opting to give the contract to Air Chefs, a subsidiary of SAA.

“If my daughter sells fat cakes and someone next door is also selling fat cakes, why would I go buy next door instead of supporting my daughter?” she said.

When told that SAA had tried on several occasions to get Air Chefs to get its house in order because customers were complaining about their substandard service, Kwinana said: “I would not go next door and buy fat cakes and leave my child’s fat cakes here. Even if I had a challenge with them, I would say reduce the baking powder, add this and that so that it could be to the customer’s satisfaction.”

Kwinana made another startling admission on the contract awarded to Swissport for ground handling services without an open tender. She conceded that she signed the contract papers without reading them.

“I didn’t think this was a contract, I thought we were approving terms and conditions,” she said.

Kwinana conceded she had met people who had put in bids for contracts at SAAT before the tender process was finalised. She said she saw nothing wrong with such meetings as the bid was not part of the discussions.

On Tuesday, Kwinana will be grilled on allegations that she accepted a R4.5m bribe from Ndzeku, who was in business with SAAT.

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