Dudu Myeni absent from court as damning evidence heard against her
Avril Halstead - the National Treasury’s chief director - was the latest witness on Wednesday to add impetus to the court application. Halstead told the court how Myeni allegedly defied an instruction in September 2015 from the then finance minister to sign a deal with Airbus on behalf of SAA for the lease of five sophisticated aircraft.
The five planes, the court heard, were top of the range and were used by top international airlines for long-distance trips, being very fuel efficient.
Halstead said SAA wanted to use the aircraft for their new routes in the Middle East, especially to Dubai, Europe and London, but Myeni allegedly quashed the deal.
She allegedly wanted an African aircraft leasing company to enter such an agreement with Airbus on behalf of SAA.
While this evidence was being heard, Myeni was not in court, despite numerous appeals by Judge Ronel Tolmay for her to attend.
The trial has now entered its third week, with two remaining, before Judge Tolmay passes judgment.
If the application succeeds, Myeni would have to relinquish her position as chairperson of the Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma Foundation and various other bodies, such as being a director of a water board in KwaZulu-Natal.
In October last year, Judge Tolmay pleaded with Myeni, through her legal counsel, advocate Nqabayethu Buthelezi, to attend the proceedings.
Giving details of the Airbus deal, Halstead said SAA signed to purchase 15 A320 aircraft in 2002, and had made pre-deposit payments that amounted to billions of rand.
At the time, the purchase of a single A320 amounted to $100million (R1 billion). In 2013, the court heard that SAA wanted five more planes added to their 2002 list. In 2015, 10 of 20 A320 aircraft were already in South Africa.
Halstead said SAA indicated to the National Treasury that they had a deal with Airbus to lease five new, sophisticated aircraft. She said SAA had to submit a Section 54 application to the then finance minister, Nhlanhla Nene.
“The minister, after consultation with the National Treasury, wrote to Dudu Myeni on September 17, 2015, and gave his approval of the lease deal,” Halstead said.
But instead of signing the deal, the court heard that Myeni wrote a letter to Airbus management saying: “SAA has decided to do this transaction slightly differently, by engaging an African aircraft leasing company to engage with you directly.”
The trial continues.