It is probably too early to start popping the champagne corks following Friday’s announcement by Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba that controversial South African Airways (SAA) chairperson Dudu Myeni will not serve another term on the board of the airline when her current stint expires at the end of August.
For a start, Myeni – who is almost umbilically linked to President Jacob Zuma – and who has run SAA in a manner that would make the proverbial bull in a china shop seem shy and retiring – may decide not to go quietly into the long night.
There is some concern she may try to stall the airline’s AGM next month in order to cling on to power a little longer. Then, there is the worrying possibility she might be replaced by someone equally committed to Zuma – and all that implies in terms of state capture – or who is an even worse administrator. Government needs to consider carefully who to nominate as Myeni’s replacement.
There are already legal challenges from Outa and the SAA Pilots’ Association, who have asked the High Court in Pretoria to declare her a delinquent director, which would bar her from serving as a director, senior executive or on any boards for at least seven years. Another reason to temper any euphoria is the question of whether Gigaba is suddenly starting to act independently, or if he is directing a strategic retreat by the Zuma camp to calm the storm around state capture.
He has already seemingly moved against that camp by challenging moves to redefine the role of the Reserve Bank, as ordered by Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane. Yet, we don’t see the Zuma-Gupta axis folding soon.
There are billions of rands at stake at the state trough. And we do not think that either Zuma or the Guptas have taken their eyes off that prize.