Dudu Myeni, beleaguered former chair of SA Airways (SAA), is facing a stacked deck, with the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) now looking into a possible criminal investigation.
High Court in Pretoria Judge Ronel Tolmay this week declared Myeni a delinquent director for life and referred the matter to the NPA for “their consideration and determination of whether an investigation regarding possible criminal conduct should follow”.
NPA spokeswoman Bulelwa Makeke said on Thursday her office was studying the judgment.
“Normally, with such referrals from the courts, the NPA refers the matter to the relevant investigative agency in the law enforcement environment to conduct the necessary investigations and the matter proceeds from there,” Makeke said.
In the meantime, chief executive of the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) Wayne Duvenage has described the judgment as “a big win”.
He said it would also be used by the Special Investigations Unit in its other investigations into SAA.
“It’s going to be utilised across many fronts,” he said.
Duvenage said it was important that executives in positions of power in state-owned entities and in government were held to account for their transgressions and that the judgment showed civil society had “clout”.
“It shows that we can use the constitution and our laws,” he said. “There aren’t many delinquent director cases out there but this is a big one and it sets a precedent.
“I now hope that others are going to follow suit and start holding other directors to account in this way.”
Outa and the SAA Pilots’ Association first applied to have Myeni declared a delinquent director back in 2017. The trial only got off the ground this year after a series of delays triggered in part by challenges brought by Myeni’s legal team.
In court, Outa argued that Myeni had scuppered a valuable “code sharing” deal with Emirates, costing the state carrier in income and reputation, as well as that in 2015 she blocked an agreement with global transportation company Airbus to cancel the purchase of 10 aircraft and instead lease five in order to “improperly involve and benefit a new aircraft leasing company”.
In a scathing judgment, Tolmay tore into Myeni, labelling her “a dishonest and unreliable witness” whose evidence was “more often than not, blatantly untrue”.
The judge also made a costs order against Myeni and slammed her for refusing to attend her trial until she had to give evidence.
What the judge said
- The evidence established that Ms Myeni knowingly took SAA and the country to the brink of disaster.
- In this instance, Ms Myeni caused untold harm to SAA and the South African economy.
- Although all of SAA’s woes can certainly not be attributed to her alone, she surely contributed significantly to the position SAA and the economy finds itself in today.
- She honestly believed that there was no problem if SAA defaulted on its debts, as the government and the public ought to have been saddled with SAA’s debts, regardless of the consequences.
- She was a director gone rogue, she did not have the slightest consideration for her fiduciary duty to SAA.
- Maybe if Ms Myeni bothered to attend the trial, she could have instructed her counsel properly.