Dudu Myeni stopped R1.5bn SAA and Emirates deal through WhatsApp message, court hears
Johannesburg - Former SAA board chairperson Dudu Myeni’s instruction to terminate a business deal between SAA and Emirates was done so telephonically and later through a WhatsApp message a few hours before the failed official signing of the deal in Paris, France.
This was the testimony of former SAA CEO Nico Bezuidenhout on Monday in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria sitting in the Palace of Justice.
Bezuidenhout was testifying in the court application by Outa and SAA Pilots Association (SAAPA) to declare Myeni a delinquent director.
Outa and SAAPA in their court papers have listed the failure of the SAA and Emirates deal as one of the key reasons that the High Court in Pretoria should rule in their favour.
Last week it was revealed that, “In January 2015, Emirates approached SAA with a proposal for an enhanced commercial relationship. Benefits included an expanded code-sharing relationship and an annual revenue guarantee of $100m (R1.4billion), which would have supported SAA in operating a profitable daily service between Johannesburg and Dubai.”
Bezuidenhout gave the court a detailed account of how Myeni had allegedly ignored numerous requests to approve the deal. He said he wrote numerous emails to Myeni, including providing opinions by experts who supported the deal.
Bezuidenhout said the rest of Myeni’s board members also supported the deal.
He told the court that he left for France on June 14, 2015 as they had with their Emirates counterparts singled out June 16, 2015 to sign the deal. Bezuidenhout said the reason for that date was due to the fact that it coincided with the Paris Airshow - the biggest in the world. He said both parties were hoping to attract a large contingent of journalists to the signing ceremony. “On 15 June I had a conversation with my Emirates counterparts and I informed them that I still did not get permission to sign the deal.
“The Emirates senior managers told me they would escalate the matter with the government including President Jacob Zuma.
“The next morning I got a call from Ms Myeni at about 2am. She was furious and accused of having embarrassed the country and the president. She told him that the Emirates people have contacted the President.
“Later on, she said I should not sign the deal. She also said the President did not want me to sign the deal. I never heard the President saying it but Ms Myeni mentioned the President’s name,” Bezuidenhout said.
He said seven hours later, Myeni allegedly sent a WhatsApp to him and instructed him not to execute the deal.
“I then took the whatsapp message and circulated to some of the officials who accompanied me to Paris for the signing of the deal,” Bezuidenhout said.
He told the court that the cabin crew members were already dressed up for the occasion when the whatsapp message landed on his cellphone.
His testimony continues.