​SAA pilots aren’t convinced Dudu Myeni is the ‘best person’ for the job of chair

Less than a month after being reappointed chairperson of the SAA board, Dudu Myeni has come under fire from the SAA Pilots’ Association, which says “she hasn’t done anything since [her prior appointment to the position] to convince us that she is the best person” to lead the national carrier’s turnaround strategy.

The association questioned Myeni’s capability and track record as head of the SAA board.

“Is Ms Myeni the right person to lead SAA? The SAA Pilots’ Association called for a fit-for-purpose board a year ago. Myeni was the chairperson of the board at the time. She hasn’t done anything since to convince us that she is the best person in the country to lead the national carrier out of its current financial situation,” the association’s chairperson, Jimmy Conroy, told the Mail & Guardian.

Tryphosa Ramano, a former chief financial officer (CFO) at SAA and the current CFO of cement company PPC, was appointed deputy chairperson and nonexecutive director. The 10-member board includes nonexecutive directors Nazmeera Moola, an Investec Asset Management economist and strategist, and Thandeka Mgoduso, who has served on the board of the Reserve Bank.

Conroy says the incoming board members face a daunting task: “Some arrive with good reputations and I’ve been told that it is a strong board which will be able to curb undesirable activities. The airline industry is a highly competitive, dynamic and technical industry with little room for error. Will the current board be up to the task? It’s going to be a tough ask. Time will tell.”

After accepting President Jacob Zuma’s condition that Myeni be kept on – averting a national crisis – Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan approved a R5-billion bailout for the airline, narrowly avoiding business rescue. The move appeased Hong Kong’s tax authorities, which sought proof that SAA would be able to pay for landing rights for the year ahead and had threatened to ground the airline if it did not provide financial statements.

Speaking at the Open Book Festival in Cape Town on Thursday, Gordhan said that while Myeni would retain her position to ensure some continuity, “any notion that the chair can carry on doing things with the new board that might have been done in the past must be seen in the context of the board’s memorandum of understanding and the script that has to be followed, as well as government rules”.

The controversial former teacher has reportedly overseen the airline’s decline to the brink of bankruptcy, with the treasury withholding billions in government guarantees until the appointment of a competent new board.

The pilots’ association has a history of challenging Myeni. In November last year its members struck an overwhelming vote of no confidence in her leadership.

The meeting was attended by 472 members and came in the wake of comments Myeni had made in an internal communication, in which she said that pilots’ salaries were “exorbitant and unaffordable”. The pilots make up 12% of the airline’s workforce but, according to Myeni, account for 40% of its salary bill.

Last week Myeni hit back at her detractors during a public meeting organised by former Economic Freedom Fighters MP Andile Mngxitama’s Black First Land First movement.

“I want to give you assurance that we found the airline in dire straits. There were people who were aviation experts who were here before us and there is a myth that this chairperson is incompetent, but I am yet to find the yardstick they are using to assess my competence,” Myeni said.

The Democratic Alliance is already planning to challenge Myeni’s appointment in court.

“Her reappointment not only reeks of nepotism and cronyism so common under [President Jacob Zuma’s] administration, but it also flies in the face of the need for good governance at state-owned enterprises, especially SAA … Our legal action thus seeks to have the reappointment of Ms Myeni set aside as being wholly irrational,” said DA leader Mmusi Maimane.

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.

Govan Whittles

Govan Whittles is a general news and political multimedia journalist at the Mail & Guardian. Born in King William's Town in the Eastern Cape, he cut his teeth as a radio journalist at Primedia Broadcasting. He produced two documentaries and one short film for the Walter Sisulu University, and enjoys writing about grassroots issues, national politics, identity, heritage and hip-hop culture.


Mapisa-Nqakula ‘regrets confusion’ after contradictory statements on Khosa case

The minister’s media statement follows a letter from Khosa’s attorneys that they were considering a perjury charge or a complaint with the Public Protector

Capture claims plague new private-security bargaining council

Unhappy members of the National Bargaining Council for the Private Security Sector say corporate governance standards are being flouted

The backlogs, denials and future of testing Covid-19

The National Health Laboratory Services finally admitted to a bottleneck last week, after denying there were any issues since April. According to the service, the backlog of 80 000 tests started in the first week of May

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday