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16 Sep 2016 00:00
Eye of the storm: Dudu Myeni, the embattled SAA board chairperson, has also drawn the ire of the SAA Pilots’ Association. (Photo: Waldo Swiegers, Bloomberg)
The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) have set their sights on controversial SAA board chairperson Dudu Myeni, and have vowed to “expose her for self-enrichment” using state-owned companies.
Seemingly buoyed by its success in getting President Jacob Zuma to “pay back the money” for Nkandla, the party says it will doggedly continue to investigate Myeni and “uncover her deals”.
Myeni confirmed having received the Mail & Guardian’s questions but did not respond further. After multiple attempts to reach her again, Myeni refused to comment.
The party said that it did not intend pressing criminal charges against Myeni because “nothing happens”.
“The problem is that the Hawks and National Prosecuting Authority are political institutions under Zuma.
[This influences] our decision on whether or not to take it up with law enforcement agencies.
Speaking in Parliament on Tuesday, the EFF accused Myeni’s son, Thalente, of benefiting financially from Myeni’s close relation- ship with the president.
Thalente made headlines this week when the news broke that he was one of a group of politically connected stakeholders who cashed in their shares in a R51-billion Prasa contract for new passenger train carriages, to be built locally, before any had been built.
Myeni is the chairperson of the Jacob Zuma Foundation.
In Parliament, EFF leader Julius Malema repeatedly called Myeni “Dudu Myeni-Zuma”, and accused Thalente of “collecting bags of money from people who want to meet Zuma”.
Senior ANC MPs, Minister of Social Development Bathabile Dlamini and Minister of Small Business Development Lindiwe Zulu rushed to Myeni’s defence, demanding that Malema stop referring to her as Myeni-Zuma, and asking the House to allow her to respond to the allegations.
But the EFF is undeterred and Shivambu maintains that it will “continue to [expose Myeni] when we uncover her deals”.
Thalente could not be reached for comment.
In the midst of her battle to disprove her SAA detractors, the news broke last week that she had been appointed chairperson of a KwaZulu-Natal water board that has not yet been created.
Water Affairs Minister Nomvula Mokonyane’s decision to appoint Myeni is being challenged in the Pietermaritzburg high court by the former chief executive of the Mhlathuze board, Sibusiso Makhanya. This is the second time he has challenged her.
The Mhlathuze water board is in the process of being dismantled and will be merged with the much bigger Umgeni water board.
Myeni’s third term as head of the Mhlathuze water board lapsed in February last year. Mokonyane extended it and a court bid to have her removed failed. The court was told by Makhanya that Myeni demonstrated tyrannical control.
Her appointment to the yet-to-be-created board has been flagged by the treasury, which has deep reservations about the move.
The SAA Pilots’ Association is also unhappy about the decision to keep her on as chairperson of the airline’s board. The pilots have questioned her abilities and whether Myeni is the right person to lead SAA.
“The SAA Pilots’ Association called for a fit-for-purpose board a year ago,” said the association’s chairperson, Jimmy Conroy. “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 passed an overwhelming vote of no confidence in Myeni last year at a meeting attended by 472 members after the chairperson described their salaries as exorbitant and unaffordable.
Despite their reservations and public clashes with Myeni, the association is more hopeful about the other board members, which 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.
“Some arrive with good reputations and I have 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,” Conroy said.
Despite failing to produce SAA’s financial statements for three years and taking the embattled airline to the brink of business rescue, Myeni survived the chop when Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan conducted an overhaul of the SAA board.
She was reappointed as chairperson for one year by Gordhan, who accepted Zuma’s condition that she be kept on, thereby narrowly averting a national crisis, reports said. SAA was at risk of being plunged into either liquidation or business rescue without new government guarantees, which were not going to be released until a new board was installed. It could have caused even greater damage to the ailing rand.
The clash over Myeni’s position at SAA has resulted in months of protracted negotiations between Zuma and Gordhan, who had refused to allow her reappointment.
Speaking at the Open Book Festival in Cape Town, Gordhan said Myeni could not run the board as she has in the past.
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