/ 18 October 2017

Dudu Myeni fired as SAA chair

President Jacob Zuma's Cabinet has approved a new SAA board.
President Jacob Zuma's Cabinet has approved a new SAA board.

Dudu Myeni has been removed from the board of South African Airways in what could be a range of changes made to the leadership of the embattled airline.

The Mail & Guardian understands that Myeni will be replaced by businessperson JB Magwaza who has been appointed as the new board chairperson.

It appears that members of the existing board have not been notified of possible impending changes, according to one source with knowledge of the matter.

The speculated changes come just ahead of the medium-term budget where the final details of a plan to recapitalise the failing airline are expected to be announced.

The airline has already received over R5-billion in bailouts during the course of the year, after international banks Standard Chartered and Citibank refused to extend debt repayments for SAA.

Outstanding debt of R5-billion is still owed to domestic lenders, which extended the repayment deadline to October 31. The agreement with domestic banks provides for an extension until the end of March 2019 provided the required equity injection into SAA is tabled in the adjustments budget and approved by Parliament.

Myeni – who is seen as close to Jacob Zuma – has been widely criticised for her leadership of the airline. She has been in the role since she became acting chairperson in 2012.

Over the last five years, the airline has accumulated over R15-billion in losses, while government support for SAA has reached almost R24-billion since 2008, according to an analysis done by transport economist Joachim Vermooten.

The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse and the SAA Pilots Association have applied to the courts to have her declared a delinquent director.

The M&G has previously reported on their case – which lays out some of the more controversial decisions she has made including alleged attempts to scupper a critical deal with France’s Airbus.

Myeni, however, has long denied criticisms against her, arguing instead that she has only sought to promote transformation at SAA and combat entrenched corruption.