September 24 - Dudu Myeni. File photo: ANA

Johannesburg - Controversial South African Airways (SAA) board chairperson Dudu Myeni appears to be involved in the "planned raid on pensioners’ money" to prop up SAA and other bankrupt state-owned enterprises (SoEs), the Democratic Alliance said on Sunday.

The DA had noted the media report that Dudu Myeni had asked the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) for R6 billion to bail out beleaguered SAA, an airline she had basically run into the ground, DA spokesman Alf Lees said.

While the PIC reportedly refused these requests this was yet another reason to add to the mountain of reasons to remove Myeni - a close personal friend of President Jacob Zuma - from the board.

"She now appears to be involved in the planned raid on pensioners’ money to prop up SAA and other bankrupt state-owned enterprises," Lees said.

PIC CEO Dan Matjila apparently had to answer to allegations against him that were mysteriously apparently leaked after he turned down Myeni’s request. It was concerning that Matjila was apparently unable to do his job without political interference.

"The Minister of Finance Malusi Gigaba is dead wrong. The presence of Ms Dudu Myeni on the SAA board at all, let alone as chair, is neither a legal requirement nor is it prudent. In fact, it is downright irrational and completely irresponsible of Gigaba to try to find technical means to retain Myeni on the SAA board," Lees said.

Gigaba recently extended Myeni's contract as SAA board chairwoman until the airline's annual general meeting set down for early November. Myeni's term was due to finish at the end of August. Despite claims to the contrary, Gigaba has insisted that the extension of her term is legal.

Lees said SAA had been in constant need of rescuing, facing a R10 billion funding crisis in a few days’ time. The setbacks for SAA continue to pile up:
- Citibank had reportedly refused to extend their R1.8 billion loan beyond September 30, 2017;
- The balance of the lenders of the R6.8 billion due for payment by September 30, 2017 had apparently indicated their reluctance to extend their loans, particularly if Myeni remained on the SAA board;
- The international ratings agencies were watching how Gigaba handled the SAA crisis very closely; and
- There was no time left for any special appropriation bill to be passed by parliament before September 30, 2017.

"With Matjila facing an internal audit for doing his job, it’s difficult to have faith in the PIC when the politically connected seek access to the R1.9 trillion of pension money that Matjila manages to further enrich themselves. It’s unethical to use the citizens’ hard-earned pension funds to rescue the failing SAA, once again.

"Despite all this, Gigaba is prepared to put the economic future of South Africa, and the 9.3 million unemployed South Africans, at risk in order to comply with the wishes of President Jacob Zuma to keep his close friend Dudu Myeni on the SAA board," Lees said.