Strap yourselves in: Myeni to stay in pilot’s seat at SAA

By Matthew le Cordeur

Cape Town – South African Airways chairperson Dudu Myeni has been officially recommended to remain in the hot seat by Cabinet, it has been announced.

“Cabinet discussed the appointment of the board of South African Airways (SAA) and approved the following appointments,” Cabinet said in a statement on Friday.

Dudu Myeni, SAA chairperson
Dudu Myeni, SAA chairperson

It listed the appointments as follows:

  • Duduzile Cynthia Myeni (reappointment as chairperson);
  • Mmakeaya Magoro Tryphosa Ramano (deputy chairperson and non-executive director);
  • Bajabulile Swazi Tshabalala (non-executive director);
  • Thandeka Nozipho Mgoduso (non-executive director);
  • Nazmeera Moola (non-executive director);
  • Akhter Hoosen Moosa (non-executive director);
  • Gugu Sepamla (non-executive director);
  • Siphile Buthelezi (non-executive director);
  • Peter Holmes Maluleka (non-executive director);
  • Mzimkulu Malunga (non-executive director);
  • Martha Mbatha (non-executive director); and
  • Peter Tshisevhe (non-executive director).

The formation of the board means Treasury will now release the embattled airline’s R5bn guarantee, which will then allow it to file its much-delayed annual financial results for 2014/15 as well as the 2015/16 results.

SAA has until September 15 to file these reports to Parliament.

The composition of the board is seen as a compromise between President Jacob Zuma and Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan.

Apparently, Gordhan had months ago presented a board that excluded Zuma’s friend Myeni, which was rejected by the president.

While the Democratic Alliance said the inclusion of Myeni was a “massive political defeat” for Gordhan, Treasury apparently managed to include board members that could keep the controversial chairperson in check.

Cartoon courtesy of Twitter @PaulieCartoons
Cartoon courtesy of Twitter @PaulieCartoons

“We must do political homework to get credible people on board,” Gordhan said in July. He said the new board and management team could include existing members and “new blood”.

Alf Lees, DA deputy shadow minister of finance, said on Thursday that Myeni’s reappointment will “be bad for SAA, bad for our economy and bad for Pravin Gordhan”.

“Myeni and her board have simply ignored Minister Gordhan and all warnings. They have, in our opinion, recklessly continued to run SAA into the ground and to the brink of liquidation.”

“We see the appointment as irrational,” Lees told Fin24 on Friday. “We need to look at what action we can take with regard to her appointment.

“It appears that some strong people have been appointed the board,” he said. “However, it doesn’t obviate our fears that Myeni will dominate the board, especially because of her close relationship with Zuma.

“The other board members will find themselves unable to perform their duties to sufficiently to save the airline.”

The DA has called for the financially embattled airline to be placed into business rescue.

Myeni, chair of the Jacob Zuma Foundation, is a close friend of the president and has allegedly been sheltered by the top boss in a tenure that has seen the national carrier face countless challenges.

Myeni has been chair since 2009 and can only serve three three-year terms, a person citing legislation told Business Day. That means she would likely not be able to serve beyond 2018. – Fin24


OUTA media statement

OUTA both concerned and cautious about new SAA board

While we welcome the long awaited announcement of a new SAA Board, we express our concern about the retention of Ms Dudu Myeni as the Chairperson of SAA. We hope and trust the new board will go a long way in rectifying the extremely poor performance of SAA, and turn it around into the profitable organisation it once was, but with Ms Myeni as the Chair we expect challenges to abound.

Wayne Duvenage, chairman, OUTA
Wayne Duvenage, chairman, OUTA

“We believe that profitability is only possible with the appointment of suitably talented executive directors to achieve the professional and competitive outputs required of SAA,” says Wayne Duvenage, OUTA’s Chairperson. “Sadly, the past board has succeeded in purging the airline of excellent senior managers and the current board will have to work hard to restore the public’s confidence in this brand.”

We call on the new board to apply their minds to the reappointment of several senior managers such as Ms Thuli Mpshe, Cynthia Stimpel and Sylvain Bosc, all of whom were suspended for standing their ground against the questionable conduct of the previous board.  Mr Bosc was recently cleared of all charges against him. We believe that Ms Mpshe and Stimpel will also be cleared of the charges against them.  These good people were purged from the airline as a result of their morally courageous stances taken against the dubious conduct of senior management. Even if the new board does not reappoint these people, and others such as Wolf Meyer and Nico Bezuidenhout who also recently left under duress, they would be wise to interview them in order to gain insight into the questionable conduct of the past.

OUTA hopes the new board will also dig deep to uncover corruption and maladministration which has plagued the airline over recent years, and still does so today. “A thorough review of many contracts should be undertaken and note should be taken of the findings from the 2015 Ernst & Young audit, which will go a long way to shining some light on this scourge within the airline,” says Ivan Herselman, OUTA’s Director of Legal Affairs. “The influencing of contract appointments which are not in the best interest of the airline, is an extremely serious matter and those found guilty of such behaviour, should be held accountable, with the necessary corrective action applied.”

The announcement of a new board does not change OUTA’s current investigation into the serious transgressions and other management issues at SAA. We will continue with our investigations, and call on the new SAA board to equally use all avenues and powers available to them, to root out corruption and maladministration within the airline.

The fact that Ms Myeni remains in the Chair is of serious concern. A number of significant and questionable actions combined with loss making performances have taken place under Myeni’s watch, which has cost the taxpayer several billion of rands in bailouts over recent years. Accordingly, the airline is currently facing huge pressure from various institutions to release financial reports to provide grounds of its solvency.

“We believe Myeni should be held accountable and largely responsible for the poor governance and performance issues that have transpired at SAA over the past few years. It is a pity that Government did not seize this opportunity to remove her from the board. In the words of the late Tyree Scott, well known US labour and civil rights activist: ‘You can’t leave people who were part of the problem in charge of trying to find the solution’,” says Duvenage.

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