Pretoria - The judge hearing the application to have Dudu Myeni declared a delinqent director has asked the former SAA board chairperson to consider attending court following more damning testimony against her.
The North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria is currently hearing an application by Outa and SAA Pilots Association (SAAPA) to declare Myeni a delinquent director. They have accused her of plunging the national airline into financial chaos during her six-year tenure at the helm.
Judge Ronel Tolmay relayed her advice to Myeni's legal counsel, Advocate Nqabayethu Buthelezi, on Thursday after former SAA chief commercial director Sylvain Bosc accused of Myeni of having tried to block a R3.75 billion lease agreement for five sophisticated aircraft from Airbus, the second largest aircraft manufacturer in the world.
Bosc told the court that the SAA board approved a deal to lease five A 330-300 aircraft from Airbus in a swap transaction. He said the normal purchase price of one aircraft was US$100 million (R1.5 billion). The court heard that Airbus does not ordinarily lease aircraft, but agreed to the deal because SAA was its biggest client in Africa.
Bosc told the court that SAA obtained the national airliner’s approval in March 2015 and they had to make several representations to the National Treasury to get government approval.
The court heard that then Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene approved the deal unconditionally on September 17, 2015 - in a letter he wrote to Myeni. The contents of the letter was read out in court.
According to Bosc’s testimony, it was now up to Myeni and her board to confirm the details of the deal to Airbus. The court heard that the deal was supposed to be sealed before the end of September.
However, Bosc said Myeni wrote to the President of Airbus SAS Fabrice Bregier on September 29, 2015 where she allegedly tried to manipulate the deal in favour of an “undisclosed” African aircraft leasing company.
Myeni wrote: “On behalf of the Board of South African Airways, I would like to apologise for the delay in reaching a decision on the A320/A330 swap transaction. You will appreciate that this is a complex transaction and the full Board had to be satisfied that the approved deal is in the best interest of the company and the government of the Republic of South African at this point.
“I am pleased to inform you that SAA has decided to do this transaction slightly differently, by engaging an African Aircraft Leasing Company to engage directly with you. As there has been a delay in reaching this decision. SAA is agreeable to extending the delivery dates by a month or two. This company will then work directly with SAA going forward,” the letter stated.
In court, Bosc said no such a decision was taken. He emphasised that Nene’s letter was in full support of SAA directly leasing five aircraft from Airbus.
“Airbus's president wrote back to Ms Myeni and appraised her of the contents of the letter,” Bosc said.
He said if the leasing agreement was terminated, SAA would have been forced to purchase one aircraft for its original amount of R1.5 billion saying “SAA did not have such money.”
Bosch further told the court that Myeni in her alleged bid to involve the “undisclosed and unknown” wrote a letter to Nene asking her to allegedly approve the appointment and involvement of the African Leasing Company.
“The Minister rejected Myeni’s proposal. Few days later I read in the media that the Minster was fired from the cabinet. This was a victory for corruption and incompetence,” Bosc said.
The trial continues.