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State capture inquiry hears about 'Myeni's person' at SAA

Jun 18 2019 15:10
Carin Smith

The judicial commission of inquiry into state capture on Tuesday heard from a former SAA executive about how she was advised by then board chair Dudu Myeni to interact with her "personal advisor". 

The inquiry has been investigating allegations of state capture, corruption and fraud at state entities since August 2018. 

The airline's former chief financial officer Phumeza Nhantsi, a chartered accountant, testified on Tuesday that she was first appointed as the airline's interim CFO in November 2015, and as permanent CFO in May 2017. Nhantsi was suspended in March 2018. 

She told the commission that two days after she joined SAA, Myeni gave her the contact details of Masotsha Mngadi, saying he knows a lot about the airline.

At the time the then minister of finance had queried an aircraft swap deal. A letter had to be drafted to provide feedback to the minister. According to Nhantsi, Myeni told her that, after the letter had been drafted, she must "run it by" Mngadi.

"I did not know Mr Mngadi before. I took it that he was appointed in terms of the SAA processes. Later I made enquiries and was told that Mngadi is 'Myeni's person'. I was curious to understand how he was appointed and was told he is Myeni's personal advisor, as opposed to being an advisor to the SAA board," Nhantsi told the commission. 

According to Nhantsi, Mngadi was not paid by SAA. She never asked Myeni how Mngadi was paid and why he was not paid by SAA if he was an advisor.

Not paid by SAA

The commission's chair, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, asked Nhantsi why Myeni would want somebody to do the work of assisting her as then interim CFO of SAA but the airline would not pay that person?

"That is strange. If SAA needs advisors, they must be secured in a certain manner and be paid by SAA," said Zondo.

Nhantsi responded that Myeni told her that Mngadi was advising matters related to the airline, had a deep understanding of SAA and if she (Nhantsi) had any questions, she must ask him.

"Yes, it was strange that this third party was involved, but at that time I was only two weeks at SAA and not sure how things worked at the airline," said Nhantsi.

She added that Mngadi was not involved in the day-to-day running of SAA, but gave input for the letter that was being prepared to be sent by the board to National Treasury after board approval thereof in terms of protocol.

Nhantsi said at the time she joined SAA the aircraft swap deal was already at a "late stage".

"My understanding was that, many years ago, SAA ordered wide-body aircraft and now wanted to swap the aircraft. So there were letters from the finance minister regarding the swap that had to be addressed," she said.

"Mr Mngadi was involved in the swap transaction. He gave (then CEO) Zwane and me details on the swap deal."

Myeni was replaced as SAA's chairperson in October 2017. Former Bosasa executive Angelo Agrizzi previously told the commission that Myeni was paid R300 000 monthly by Bosasa. Myeni has denied the allegations, telling eNCA nobody could "test her with money". 

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