Who is Nick Linnell? ‘Mr Fix-it’ at SAA, Eskom for #Zupta

For five years, Nick Linell wore the hats of legal advisor, coordinator, consultant, confidant and labour lawyer. His services were so sought after by former SAA chairperson Dudu Myeni that she paid him R167,000 at the height of the grounded airline’s financial woes. The two first met at uMhlatuze water board in 2012 after an introduction by a mutual colleague and would go on to orchestrate suspensions at Eskom and SAA with Linnell even writing media statements and becoming Myeni’s informal spokesperson. While his testimony at the Zondo Commission has garnered attention, it is Linnell’s background and high-level associations that have left many pondering how he got there in the first place – Bernice Maune. 

By Bernice Maune  

According to his LinkedIn profile, Linnell began his career as a magistrate at the high court in then Rhodesia, under Ian Smith’s oppressive regime.

He would then spend two years with Winterton Holmes and Hill as a legal practitioner and 18 years with the Wooltru Group, eventually founding Corporate Turnaround in 2002 where he serves as director to this day. It would take ten years until Linnell’s fortunes turned around with a recommendation by a colleague to Myeni, leading to a lucrative role as her ‘Mr Fix It.’

Born in 1951, Linnell attended the Prince Edward school in Harare and graduated from the University of Zimbabwe with a BCom. He would earn an Honours in Law from the University of Cape Town. While Linnell insists he was not a practising lawyer in South Africa, he was admitted as an advocate at the High Court of SA, the Western Cape division in 2017.

At the Zondo commission, Linnell would explain that he would provide oversight services on HR and labour matters, giving a different angle and view on essential company matters.

“Certainly I have performed services for Ms Dudu Myeni, if the brief is to perform a service I would do that,” he said.

In 2014, Linnell would begin working for SAA taking home over a million annually. In that capacity, he had Myeni’s ear with City Press reporting that he was the only person who could sometimes reach her. Linnell also provided the following services for SAA under Myeni’s tenure at SAA;

  • Drafting letters to ministers
  • Lobbying for the police to investigate forensic specialist Paul O’Sullivan
  • Responding to media queries and writing statements despite there being a spokesperson
  • Providing legal counsel for SAA
  • He billed the national carrier R800 000 for work his company, Project Office did between April 2014 and December 2014
  • He lead the disciplinary investigation into former SAA CEO Monwabisi Kalawe

Though SAA would not comment at the time about Linnell’s role, a source told City Press he was an asset to the state airline as he gave the board ‘direction.’

At the beginning of 2015, Linnell would receive a promotion of sorts as he met Zuma for the first time at his Mhlamba Ndlopfu presidential residence. There he would sit in and add to discussions around the state of affairs at Eskom. Zuma would push for an inquiry into the power utility, making a heavy-handed decision to suspend four executives backed by Myeni and former Eskom chair Zola Tsotsi.

“My understanding in advance was that we were to discuss details of the proposed inquiry and to meet the president with regard to the proposed approach to it. There was a discussion about the state of Eskom.

“We went on to discuss what the proposed approach to that inquiry would be. The context was that the president wants an investigation into Eskom,” Linnel said.

Related articles:

Linnell’s co-ordinating expertise would show its hand again as he was called upon to draft the suspension letters and support Tsotsi who faced the mammoth task of holding disciplinary hearings and settlement agreement meetings with the axed officials.

Linnell was also a key participant in talks about load shedding and how it had impacted the country, telling Zondo that his second meeting with Zuma was about why rolling blackouts were happening.

During his testimony, Linnell came across as soft-spoken, carefully picking out his words and sometimes responding vaguely to the evidence leader’s questions. In one instance, he refused the title ‘Mr Fix It’ but admitted he did exactly that for Myeni.

“I think it’s an unreasonable narrative to put it. I was engaged in a number of things where things were fixed but the narrative was probably unreasonable,” he lamented.

Linnell’s testimony has concluded with him shedding light on his relationship with Tsotsi whom he says he met at the Eskom headquarters in Sunninghill, Johannesburg. According to Linnell, he attended a board meeting  and his involvement was not unwelcome.

(Visited 2,295 times, 10 visits today)