In 2015, President Jacob Zuma announced that state-owned enterprises such as SAA should seek to award 30% of tenders to black suppliers.
While Zuma’s announcement was carried out by the now grounded state airline, it was not officially adopted into the legal framework by the National Treasury. It was effectively illegal and the National Treasury sent an instruction to SAA that it could not carry out the instruction.
However, in August 2015 the SAA board went ahead and adopted the resolution, prompting the National Treasury to send correspondence.
“The resolution by the board to set aside the 30% is not supported by any procurement legal framework and must be stopped with immediate effect. You are kindly requested to not take procurement decisions which bring the name of SAA and national treasury into disrepute,” the email read.
Within a week of receiving the correspondence Yakhe Kwinana, former chairperson of SAA Technical (SAAT) and Dudu Myeni, ex-SAA chairperson paid a visit to Dr Masimba Dhawa, SAA’s then-chief of procurement.
In that meeting, Dhawa, a Zimbabwean alleges that Kwinana and Myeni called him to the sixth floor of the SAA building. He was summoned by SMS and upon his arrival was cornered into drafting letters of awards to Swissport and Engen.
Swissport, a company that had a R1,5bn deal at stake and was allegedly linked to Kwinana, was allegedly strong-armed into agreeing to the 30% clause. Engen it is understood had entered into negotiations with SAA to award 15% of the their tender to black suppliers.
The procurement process behind the awards of the two companies had not been vetted and Kwinana and Myeni allegedly wanted to have the contracts drawn up and confirmed urgently. In the meeting with Dhawa, Kwinana and Myeni are said to have made comments about him not doing enough to fast-track the tenders. In addition, Myeni said she would advertise his job, this was seen as a veiled threat to Dhawa who was reluctant to sign the award letters.
Dhawa then told Myeni and Kwinana he would not sign as it was illegal to do so. Acting CEO of SAA at the time, Thuli Mpshe, joined the meeting and told Dhawa he should not sign if his conscious did not allow him to.
Myeni and Kwinana apparently tried to convince her to sign telling her Swissport was in favour. Mshe refused and when she left she said:
“Doctor Dhawa you will be alone in court should this thing come back. If you know it’s wrong, don’t do it.”
But the board members insisted with Myeni telling Dhawa the EFF would be there on Monday to get rid of him as he was anti-transformation. He was threatened again and told he would suffer for not agreeing to the plan. While Dhawa told the commission he was distressed about the events, Kwinana says she didn’t recall the meeting.
“Definitely I was not there. If I was in the meeting I would remember such events,” said Kwinana.
The chartered accountant then asked for minutes but Judge Ray Zondo said it was likely impossible there would be minutes.
“If you were doing something wrong you would not have minutes. Minutes where illegal and wrong things are being done, people don’t keep minutes,” Zondo said.
The commission then heard further evidence from Kwinana;
- According to the former chairperson, she didn’t even understand the letters of award, they would emanate from due procurement processes.
- However, Dhawa was disciplined and removed. Lester Peter took the position of chief procurement officer and on 15 December sent an email confirming a tripartite agreement that was going to be concluded between SAA, Swissport and a yet to be selected BEE supplier.
- Kwinana checked the agreement but said she saw it for the first time yesterday. When presented with a letter confirming she knew of the evidence by Dhawa, Kwinana said she now had recollection of the meeting.
- In another email, Dhawa said he felt endangered over EFF protests over what was said by Myeni and Kwinana.
- Evidence leader Kate Hofmeyer said Kwinana was a dishonest witness despite being presented with overwhelming evidence.
- In another letter, Kwinana says Dhawa is bent on keeping people out of economic bondage. Quizzed about the strong comments she made, Kwinana insisted she felt indifferent about Dhawa. The former procurement officer hit hard times after being fired, losing his home and returning to Zimbabwe where he struggled to find a job.
Swissport was then awarded the contract, with further allegations that Kwinana and Myeni would force companies to institute the 30% clause and receive kickbacks from the black suppliers who partnered with the companies.