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Myeni case | No shred of evidence of wrongdoing, theft, corruption - lawyer

Feb 28 2020 19:29
Phumi Ramalepe

The court case to have former South African Airways (SAA) chairperson Dudu Myeni declared a delinquent director concluded in Pretoria on Friday, with Judge Ronel Tolmay reserving judgment while awaiting transcripts of the day's proceedings.

Adv. Carol Steinberg, representing the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) and the SAA Pilots Association (SAAPA), asked the court to declare Myeni delinquent, for, among other reasons, blocking a code-sharing deal between Emirates and SAA and allegedly delaying the approval of a deal between Airbus and SAA in 2015. The national carrier would have received aircraft from the European multinational without being liable for pre-delivery payments.

Steinberg argued that the deal was signed in late December 2015 as opposed to September of that year because of Myeni, resulting in the flag carrier paying millions for late delivery fees.

"Ms Myeni's conduct is conveyed against standards expected of a reasonable director...she breached her duties as a director. She misrepresented facts to the shareholder, she misrepresented facts to Parliament," said Steinberg, making a reference to allegations that Myeni lied to Treasury about an Airbus/SAA swap transaction.  

Steinberg also argued that it was in the public interest for Myeni to be declared a delinquent director for the rest of her life on grounds of gross negligence and wilful misconduct. 

Outa and SAAPA claim Myeni took instruction from former president Jacob Zuma not to sign a non-binding Memorandum of Understanding in 2015 between SAA and Emirates.

In terms of this deal, Emirates would have had a flight agreement between Johannesburg and Dubai with the national carrier, giving SAA a guaranteed annual revenue of R1.5bn, according to Outa.

Fin24 previously reported that Myeni alleged that her decision, along with that of the SAA board, was influenced by former transport minister Yakhe Kwinana who had reservations about the deal. 

During cross examination earlier in the week, Myeni also claimed that the Emirates deal was unlawful. In her view, Emirates was being given too much freedom and was "eating out of [SAA's] market share through giving more to Emirates".

Adv. Nqabayethu Buthelezi, on behalf of Myeni, argued in his closing arguments that the allegations leveled against her do not hold water.  Buthelezi argued that there is no proof that Zuma influenced Myeni to block the Emirates deal.

Buthelezi claims the evidence presented to the court does not support a case of malicious intent.

"It was not as the plaintiffs would like us to believe that it's something of sinister intention. There's not a single shred of evidence of maleficence, wrongdoing, theft, abuse of funds or even corruption.

"How then, can we impune the reputation of people who in their rightful mind at the time and place that they were, have demonstrated that they were trying to do what's best for the company?" argued Buthelezi.

Buthelezi also argued that it is not necessary for Myeni to be criminally prosecuted as there is no evidence of wrongdoing against her.

"Nothing else has been led to say there was untoward behaviour. The attempt to try and nudge the court in the direction to say there was wrongdoing - on what basis was that? On what basis must you then refer for criminal investigation? It's speculation in people's minds. That's not a legal basis.

“For a person to be declared a delinquent director, the conduct has to be grossly negligent and [show] willful misconduct. Where is the misconduct in the board trying to save the company money? I don't see it," Buthelezi added.

Buthelezi asked the judge to dismiss the application and grant Myeni punitive costs.


saa  |  dudu myeni  |  aviation  |  airlines  |  state capture
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