The chief director at National Treasury has described documentation submitted to her department by Dudu Myeni – during the embattled former SAA chair’s tenure at the state carrier – as “a big load of bullsh*t”.
Avril Halstead yesterday took the stand in Myeni’s delinquent director case against the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) and the SAA Pilots’ Association (Saapa), which is being heard in the High Court in Pretoria.
Much of Halstead’s evidence centred around what Outa and Saapa have labelled the “swap transaction” – a 2015 agreement between SAA and aircraft manufacturer Airbus to cancel the purchase of 10 new airplanes and, instead, lease five different airplanes.
SAA was facing liquidation problems at the time and this agreement was designed, in part, to allow the airline to avoid the massive predelivery payments that would have been required for the new aircraft.
Myeni stands accused of having tried to change the agreement – in order to include an unidentified “African Aircraft leasing company” as a middleman – without board approval.
The court’s attention was yesterday drawn to a letter purporting to be an “unsolicited proposal” for finance from Nedbank and signed by Masotsha Mngadi – a former employee of the bank.
Halstead said Myeni had attached this letter to an application for a government guarantee, in an apparent bid to support her claim that going directly through Airbus would have resulted in massive hedging costs for SAA.
“I’m sorry to use this word, but I think it’s a big load of bullsh*t,” Halstead said of the letter.
She also said that she and her team were, at the time, engaging in regular meetings with Nedbank, along with other major banks, around the various state-owned entities, including SAA.
“Nobody from Nedbank ever made mention of this letter … My impression is that they were completely unaware of this letter,” Halstead said.
The Commission of Inquiry into State Capture last year heard that Mngadi was involved in another dodgy SAA deal.
In 2016, financial advisory firm BNP Capital was appointed as transaction advisor to SAA. The firm was subsequently tasked with sourcing R15 billion in funding for the airline – without this work ever having gone to tender.
The contract was cancelled but the “BNP deal” also forms part of the delinquent director case and is one of the four legs Outa and Saapa are relying on to have Myeni barred from sitting on another board for at least seven years.
Halstead said yesterday that it had ultimately emerged that Mngadi had been fired from Nedbank because of the BNP deal.