Pretoria - Former SAA acting CEO Nico Bezuidenhout is adamant that he had sole powers to sign the memorandum of understanding for the national airliner to enter into a R1.5bn annual deal with Emirates Airlines.
He was adamant that former SAA board chairperson Dudu Myeni, who allegedly sent him a WhatsApp texting stating “We do not approve” when he was set to sign the deal in Paris, had no powers to stop the deal.
Bezuidenhout made these statements during the conclusion of his four day testimony in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria on Wednesday.
He began his testimony on Friday last week about the failed SAA and Emirates deal, which would have guaranteed the struggling SAA would have made an annual minimum profit of $100m (R1.5bn).
Bezuidenhout was replying in re-examination by Outa and the SAA Pilots Association (SAAPA) legal counsel Carol Steinberg.
Steinberg had asked Bezuidenhout about powers given to him by the government when he was appointed as acting CEO in 2014.
In reply, he said: “According to the delegation of authority. I had the powers to execute operational duties, human resources, all legal matters and other related issues to the internal matters of the SAA.
“The role of the board was to do governance, planning and monitoring. So I had powers to sign the Emirates deal on June 16, 2015, which Ms Myeni instructed him not to do so,” Bezuidenhout said.
He said his powers were confirmed by the National Treasury under Minister Nhlanhla Nene following media inquiries about the failed SAA/Emirates deal.
“The National Treasury replied to the media that the signing of MOU was the operational prerogative of the SAA executive under its CEO. The National Treasury told the media that they do not get involved in such matters,” Bezuidenhout said.
He was reacting to Myeni’s legal counsel Nqabayethu Buthelezi during cross-examination when he said Bezuidenhout acted in haste to travel to Paris to sign the deal in June 2015.
Buthelezi said Bezuidenhout was not authorised by the board and Myeni and that the board did not vote on it.
After Bezuidenhout’s testimony, Outa and SAAPA called its second witness Sylvain Bosc - who was SAA Chief Commercial Director and Vice President of Qatar Airways.
During his initial testimony, Bosc corroborated Bezuidenhout on the powers of the SAA executives including Bezuidenhout.
Bosc was the mastermind of the SAA/Emirates deal.
His testimony continues.