Jacob Zuma, Dudu Myeni accused of sinking SAA deal with Emirates
Johannesburg - The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) and the SAA Pilots Association (Saapa) are accusing former president Jacob Zuma and former SAA board chairperson Dudu Myeni of being responsible for the ongoing financial woes of the national carrier.
These damning allegations form part of Outa and Saapa’s application under way in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria. The application by the two organisations seeks to declare Myeni a “delinquent director”, after it ran into problems when she became SAA chairperson from 2012 until 2018.
Outa and Saapa in their application listed other damning reasons for Myeni to be declared a delinquent director. Detailing claims against Zuma and Myeni, the parties said both were to blame for cancellation of a business deal between SAA and Emirates.
Outa and Saapa argue that SAA was likely to have generated profits of over R170million annually should the deal have been signed in June 2015.
Their legal counsel, advocate Carol Steinberg, on Wednesday told the court that in 1997 SAA and Emirates had a successful “code-sharing” deal.
“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,” Steinberg said.
Steinberg told the court Emirates and SAA were due to conclude the deal, which allegedly had the approval of all the board members, except for Myeni. “For reasons unknown, Myeni was strongly opposed to the deal. She delayed, then ultimately scuttled the conclusion of the Emirates MoU, causing great prejudice and embarrassment to SAA.”
Steinberg submitted that the “standout event” was Myeni’s alleged last-minute cancellation of the signing of the Emirates memorandum of understanding in June 2015.
Detailing the drama, Steinberg said: “Acting SAA chief executive Nico Bezuidenhout travelled to Paris for the signing ceremony. In the early hours of June 16, 2015, Myeni calledBezuidenhout and ordered him not to go through with the deal, and told him that this was an instruction from (then) president (Jacob) Zuma.”
Steinberg said Bezuidenhout was due to testify about the cancellation of the deal, and the instruction from Zuma, including providing documentary evidence and emails to support his testimony.
“Myeni’s obstruction, evasions and delays led to Emirates breaking off all negotiations. As a consequence, SAA lost out on a key opportunity to improve its turnover at a time when it was functionally insolvent.
“This also severely damaged SAA’s reputation and its relationship with the largest international airline,” Steinberg said. Outa and Saapa submitted that in May 2015, Myeni, acting on her own, appointed an operational review committee to advise the board on the Emirates deal. Steinberg said the operational review committee recommended the signing of the Emirates deal, but despite that Myeni instructed Bezuidenhout not to sign the deal.
Outa and Saapa said Myeni acted on Zuma’s orders.
Myeni was contacted, but “declined to comment at this stage”.
The case is continuing.