UNDICTATED: Dudu Myeni – Why SAA’s corrupt Wrecking Ball is heading for jail

In this episode of UNDICTATED, BizNews editor Alec Hogg sits down with Wayne Duvenage, CEO of the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA), to discuss the arrest and legal troubles of Dudu Myeni — a close associate of Jacob Zuma and the former chairperson of South African Airways (SAA). Myeni, who was arrested near her Richards Bay home on Friday, faces corruption charges related to her involvement with BOSASA, a company infamous for public sector bribery. OUTA and the SAA Pilot’s Association fought a long court battle with Myeni, ending in a 2020 judgement that declared her a delinquent director, marking the beginning of her decline from affluence to infamy. – Alec Hogg

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Relevant timestamps from the interview

  • 00:06 – Introductions
  • 01:04 – Wayne Duvenage on the R300 000 bribe Dudu Myeni received
  • 04:19 – Jacob Zuma
  • 06:31 – Coordinated attack on SA treasury
  • 09:11 – Why is the prosecution so difficult
  • 12:57 – Calls for Amnesty
  • 14:27 – How Dudu Myeni got such a powerful position
  • 17:25 – Did we accept all of this as citizens
  • 20:21 – The BOSASA scandal
  • 20:58 – Conclusions

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Edited transcript of Alec Hogg’s interview with Wayne Duvenage, CEO of the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA)

Alec Hogg: In this episode of UNDICTATED we delve into the arrest of Dudu Myeni, who served as the chair of South African Airways from 2012 to 2017. Her corrupt activities first came to light in a May 2020 court judgment, stemming from a case brought against her by OUTA and the South African Airways Pilot Association.

We’ll be gaining further context from Wayne Duvenage, CEO of OUTA, who initially brought that court case. The judgment suggested that Myeni should face decades in prison, yet the current discussion in the magistrate’s court revolves around a 300,000 Rand bribe from BOSASA. What’s really happening here?

Wayne, it’s good to talk to you. I’ve read through the 114-page judgment from your court case against Dudu Myeni. It’s puzzling that she is not behind bars yet, especially considering the severe allegations. She was recently released on R10,000 bail, which doesn’t seem to align with the gravity of her supposed crimes. Can you shed some light on this?

Wayne Duvenage Absolutely, Alec. We would have expected Myeni to be in orange overalls by now in a society where the rule of law is swift and accountability is clear. However, South Africa’s criminal justice system is slow and time-consuming. Still, we should be grateful that things are finally moving forward. I think the National Prosecuting Authority and the Hawks wouldn’t have taken action if they didn’t have a strong case.

To give you some background, we pursued the case against Myeni because she was deeply involved in state capture, even before the term was coined. Her lack of understanding in running an airline and the mismanagement led to the loss of crucial talent, resulting in SAA’s eventual business rescue.

It’s a classic case of state capture. Myeni was closely linked to Jacob Zuma and even chaired the Jacob Zuma Foundation. She acted as a middleman, also meddling in other state-owned entities. We’ve tracked her activities and influence beyond just SAA, including Eskom and other organizations.

Read More: “Revolving Door” ministers & clueless spies can’t protect SA from the “worst of the worst”

Alec Hogg: Who put her in these positions?

Wayne Duvenage: She was strategically placed by power players connected to state capture, manipulating the flow of funds. The primary influencer here was Jacob Zuma. It’s a complex web of patronage but simple in execution when you hold the kind of power that Zuma had.

Alec Hogg: Wayne, are you satisfied with the legal proceedings so far?

Wayne Duvenage: Sadly, no. While it’s promising that some action is finally being taken, the pace is frustratingly slow. However, we’re optimistic that a strong case is being built against her. When she was at SAA, we saw her poor management and involvement in financial schemes that drained the organization. She was part of a larger strategy of state capture, closely connected to Jacob Zuma. The intention was to divert funds through trusted individuals in powerful roles.

Alec Hogg: We’re now eight years past Nenegate, which was also connected to Dudu. She’s only being charged for home security upgrades and travel bills totaling 300,000 Rand. What’s happening?

Wayne Duvenage: I believe the strategy is similar to how Al Capone was finally arrested—on tax fraud, not his more egregious crimes. It’s a way to start the legal process while more evidence is gathered for other cases.

Read More: South Africa’s state failure sparks self-reliance trend – Katzenellenbogen

Alec Hogg: So it’s a matter of laying the groundwork to bring her to justice for more significant crimes later on?

Wayne Duvenage: Exactly. The NPA is likely simplifying their initial case to avoid legal complications and delays. More charges could follow as more evidence becomes available.

Alec Hogg: And how effective would it be to get witnesses to come forward?

Wayne Duvenage: An amnesty process similar to a Truth and Reconciliation Commission might encourage more witnesses to speak out. The catch would be full disclosure and asset return in exchange for immunity. It could be an efficient way to speed up the process and recover stolen funds.

This is where the House of Cards comes crumbling down for the connected cronies within the ruling party who are central to the corruption. This is where the detail comes out on Jacob Zuma, on everybody else. And you can’t hide from that process because if you want to stay out of it and you’re implicated and you’re found guilty, it’s a long time in jail and you still lose everything. Think about it. I think we’ve got something to really discuss and talk about an amnesty process. Otherwise you and I will have left this planet and they’ll still be trying. It will all dissipate anyway over the next 10 years.

Alec Hogg: Well, something definitely has to be done differently because we know the evidence is very clear in many respects. Maybe revisit what Advocate Terry Matau did in the VBS saga because he, from a hopeless case, broke it open. And what you’re saying now, and I guess what Thuli Madonsela as the former public protector, when it was still a very reputable position, tells us is let’s do the same thing again. Wayne, who would have to make that call?

Wayne Duvenage: It would have to be, I think, the president. Maybe this is something that we could call for a referendum on, but it’s going to be complex. And again, the emotional knee-jerk reaction is no. But I think we have this debate. It’s going to be like the truth and reconciliation process. Remember, also complex and dealing with the evils and getting the truth out there on apartheid crimes. Same thing. So this is state capture crimes or corruption crimes for a certain period. You have to put in place the process. Like Desmond Tutu headed it up, you would have somebody of that stature heading it up. And as the Zondo commission process was put in place, so too will this. All the teams, the information flowing in, the secure whistleblowing databases, it will be complex and lengthy, but it will be far shorter than what we’re going through now.

Read More: South Africa’s alarming rise among top Mafia States: A looming threat to stability – Ivo Vegter

Alec Hogg: It’s a great idea, Wayne, but getting back to Dudu Myeni, how did she get such a powerful position despite being as incompetent as she is in the first place?

Wayne Duvenage: Well, you could ask the same question about many people in positions of power in the ruling party. Dudum Nyen, a qualified teacher, got the position through patronage. There are no rules that say you have to have a specific qualification. She was close to the president, and he used his influence to have her appointed. It’s that simple, with the intent for her to facilitate procurement processes, such as the Airbus deal.

Alec Hogg: Russell Loubser, a very respected businessman, former CEO of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, said at the time after he was one of the directors who left, that he has never seen as useless a director on business as Dudu Myeni. Now we’re going back to seven, eight years ago. Why did society accept this? Are we, as a society, accused of not caring enough?

Wayne Duvenage: You see, Alec, it’s a good question. Journalists like yourselves and the free press raise concerns, and the public reads this information, becoming aghast by these appointments. But then, people move on. That’s how government operates in this space. It’s headlines today and gone tomorrow. When a few questions are asked, we sweat a bit, and then life carries on. In the business world, we’re all trying to get on with our busy lives. We’re frustrated, we express our concerns on social media and elsewhere, but the government just doesn’t care. So civil society activists like us remain committed, saying we can’t let go. We have to hold those in power to account in some way. We were laying charges against various ministers for their conduct, knowing that those were being sidelined while Sean Abrams was in power. But we also knew these charges would matter one day when the rule of law prevails. It’s better to do it now than to try to do it five years later when the evidence is gone, whistleblowers have moved on, and it looks like a witch hunt. Many cases are with the NPA that we, Corruption Watch, Helen Sussman Foundation, and other civil society organizations have taken up. Now, that’s playing out in Dudu’s case. Citizens haven’t become apathetic; they’ve become numb. Fifteen years ago, a fraud or corruption case involving a million rand was horrible. Now, we don’t even bat an eyelid at a billion-rand case. It just keeps getting bigger, and the intent of a corrupt government has been fully exposed during the Zondo Commission. We switch off to protect ourselves from stress and anxiety, thinking somebody else will do something about it. While civil society can’t address everything, we do manage to tackle some of the big issues. However, too much still slips through the cracks because we’re not large enough. We need to scale our efforts to address the enormity of our problems.

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