The former head of Financial Risk Management at SAA, Cynthia Stimpel, testifies before the Zondo Commission in Parktown, Johannesburg. File picture: Simphiwe Mbokazi/African News Agency (ANA)
Johannesburg - Businessman Jayendra Naidoo has refuted allegations that he had discussions with former president Jacob Zuma regarding his company, First South Financial Services, receiving preferential treatment for bids at the national carrier, SAA.

Last week, the airline’s former head of risk management, Cynthia Stimpel, testified at the Zondo Commission into State Capture that she had been suspended for speaking out on unethical behaviour by the national carrier’s board of directors led by its then-chairperson Dudu Myeni.

She told the commission that Naidoo had informed SAA’s then chief financial officer, Wolf Meyer, that his company had Zuma’s blessing to be part of the deal. Naidoo’s company had been gunning for a share of SAA’s R15 billion capital-raising initiative in 2015/16.

“He (Meyer) said he had been called into a meeting by one of the potential funders. He went to the meeting; he thought they were going to discuss the maximum amount they could offer. He was told that they must ensure that SAA gave this client the deal because ‘number one’ wanted this deal to happen,” Stimpel told the commission last week.

In a statement on Tuesday, Naidoo said Stimpel’s evidence was hearsay and said he was disappointed he had not been alerted that his name would be mentioned at the inquiry.

“The evidence by Ms Stimpel is hearsay evidence at least twice removed, as Mr Meyer did not testify, nor did the unidentified person who allegedly told Mr Meyer about the alleged preference of “Number One”. As such the probative value of the information is highly questionable. 

“Mr Naidoo rejects any suggestion that he or First South received any support from Mr Zuma of whatsoever nature. Mr Naidoo regrets that he was not given advance notice of the evidence of Ms Stimpel, as required in terms of the Rules governing the proceedings of the commission. Mr Naidoo’s lawyers have written to the Commission to place this on record,” he said in a statement. 

Naidoo said the company, First South, had participated in a competitive procurement process at the airline and had not concluded any commercial transactions with SAA as a result.

“As it happens, the entities which were apparently shortlisted by SAA for the deal, namely Seacrest, BNP Capital and the Free State Development Corporation, have no connection with Mr Naidoo or First South whatsoever,” read the statement. 

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