Is Myeni’s next move to the Central Energy Fund?

A new board position in a state-owned entity might be on the cards for embattled South African Airways (SAA) chairperson Dudu Myeni.

A source close to the CEF (Central Energy Fund) board told amaBhungane that a process to appoint Myeni to its board is underway – causing surprise among existing directors in light of her performance at SAA. 

CEF is the holding company for state oil, gas and mining interests, including national oil company PetroSA. 

On Wednesday, amaBhungane phoned CEF company secretary Abdul Haffejee to ask him what stage the Myeni appointment process had reached and why board members might be unhappy. 

He said: “At this stage we’ve received correspondence, but I’ll be able to respond formally on what you send me [by email].” 

CEF spokesperson Mandla Tyala referred the emailed questions to Energy Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson, who is responsible for CEF board appointments. 

Joemat-Pettersson’s spokesperson, Zodwa Visser, said: “The office of the Minister is not aware of any such process.” 

AmaBhungane reached CEF directors Busi Mabuza and Xolile Mtwa by phone. Mabuza said she was “out of the loop” and had not heard anything about the appointment, and Mtwa refused to answer questions.

Brown wants justification
In an interview this week, Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown told the Mail & Guardian that she was kept in the dark about the decision to suspend Mnwabisi Kalawe.

“I have not been taken into confidence [about the whole thing]. I only learnt about this from the media,” said Brown. She has since instructed SAA chairperson Dudu Myeni to give her a report justifying her decision to.

“I will receive the letter [report] today [Thursday]. We can’t have a situation where the CEO changes every time we have a new board. I need Myeni to explain what discussion she had with the CEO [Kalawe]. I could not find any reason to suspend the CEO a week ago. I need to know what changed.” 

She said she was expecting Myeni to justify her decision on Thursday. “I spoke to the chair about this. I have to hear from them why they are not listening to me. The instruction I gave was to stabilise the company [and find out] what the board can do to live off its balance sheet,” said Brown.   

On allegations about Myeni having close ties with Airbus – one of the two bidders vying for the R60-billion contract to supply SAA with aircraft – Brown said SAA needed to follow proper processes before it put out the tender.

“I don’t know anything about new planes. They must give me prior notification in terms of the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA). They must present me with a business case and issue the PFMA notice. I have been minister for five months but I have no sense of what is happening there. I know we need to get new planes but we must also check if there is money available to buy that,” said Brown. 

She said her desire was to turn SAA into a financially sustainable airline.

She said if board members did not follow her instruction, she would be forced to take action. “The law is very clear between the minister and the board. The board runs the company. I am the shareholder. If there is anything I do not understand, I will act”.

Brown said her fear was that without government guarantees, SAA would never be financial sustainable.

“They are still keeping flights in the air for now, but for how long? The board can decide whether they want to take my advise or not. The fact of the matter is that I am the one who has to go to the National Treasury [when SAA runs out of cash].”

ANC general secretary Gwede Mantashe said Brown’s views represented that of the ANC because she was a member of the national executive committee and a deployee of the ANC.

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