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EXCLUSIVE: Board review portrays Myeni as 'top leader'

Nov 16 2016 10:54
Matthew le Cordeur

Cape Town – The 2015 version of the South African Airways (SAA) board was a “well-functioning professional unit with high ethics and a strong regard for governance within the company”.

That was the view of Statucor in March 2015, a compliance and governance advisory firm tasked by the SAA board with evaluating its performance.

The report was sent by SAA chairperson Dudu Myeni to the Standing Committee on Finance on Tuesday, after the committee requested various documents in terms of the Public Finance Management Act.

It said SAA board chairperson Dudu Myeni “demonstrates effective leadership of the board” and is “highly successful in managing stakeholder relations”.

It said she “promotes a culture of contribution, participation, openness and constructive debate”.

This is a very different picture to the “corporate warlord” Democratic Alliance MP Alf Lees painted in his September 15 2016 statement.

He said the “SAA has a low probability of materialising under the leadership of Dudu Myeni, who behaves less like a chairperson, and more like a corporate warlord, and who has single-handedly driven SAA to the brink of liquidation”.

Myeni last week portrayed herself as SAA’s transformation hero, explaining she has found “no sound reason not to continue to serve” and believes her contribution has added “intrinsic value” to SAA.

The 2015 board evaluation came amid a 90-day turnaround strategy when SAA was not a going concern and had not released financial statement for three years. It took another year-and-a-half before SAA released its financial statements, after a new board was appointed following Cabinet’s recommendation on September 2 2016.

The first signs of board issues came when news broke in June 2015 that SAA had reneged on its equity partnership agreement with Emirates Airlines.

At the heart of the issue was Myeni.

The Democratic Alliance said at the time that it had called for “interventions to stabilise the ailing state-owned airline, and this deal appeared to be a positive step in the right direction”.

It was also alleged in July 2015 that Myeni has bodyguards confiscate cellphones and notes after meetings and doesn’t allow the meetings to be recorded.

The board reached a low point in December, when it was alleged Nhlanhla Nene had been fired as finance minister because he would not approve Myeni’s change to an Airbus swap deal.

Following Pravin Gordhan’s reappointment, SAA was forced to follow Nene’s way by swapping the purchase of ten A320 aircraft for a lease of five A330-300 aircraft from Airbus.

The implementation of the deal in this manner meant that SAA wouldn’t have to pay additional pre-delivery payments to Airbus, which would have amounted to about R603m had Myeni had her way.

The March 2015 report cited some issues with board meetings at SAA. “Contributions to the meeting packs are not always in time to allow for thorough scrutinising and preparation”.

However, it said “meetings allow for active participation by all members”.

Myeni, who survived as chairperson of the SAA board in September 2016, faces Parliament on Wednesday to give an update on progress made since being appointed a few months ago.

The situation, coupled with the import restrictions introduced through Statutory Instrument 64 of 2016, started to impact the supply of products resulting in some price increases. According to the latest figures from the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (Zimstats) show that the gains were pushed by an increase in prices of food and non-alcoholic beverages as most prices started creeping up.

saa  |  dudu miyeni  |  board
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