Myeni became SAA chair because she was Zuma’s political ally, Zondo commission hears

Former SAA chaiperson Dudu Myeni. Picture: Moneyweb

The witness says he understands that Myeni was doing Zuma’s bidding at SAA and had played ‘that same role in other domains’. 

The chairperson of the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo heard from a witness on Monday that they had the impression that former South African Airways (SAA) chairperson Dudu Myeni landed the position because she was a political ally of former president Jacob Zuma.

Zondo was hearing testimony from an independent consultant for Eskom Nicholas Linnell, who was also Myeni’s advisor.

Linnell said he was of the view that Myeni’s role at SAA was a result of her being Zuma’s confidant and political ally and that he understood that she was doing the former president’s bidding at the airline and had played “that same role in other domains”.

Linnell was giving testimony about a meeting held on 8 March 2015 at the presidential residence in Durban.

The meeting was attended by himself, Myeni, her son, Thalente, Zuma, former Eskom board chairperson Zola Tsotsi and Jabu Maswanganyi.

Zondo heard that Eskom’s affairs were to be discussed at the meeting at which an independent inquiry into the power utility was also discussed.

Linnell would lead the inquiry into Eskom, Zondo heard, with the witness telling the commission’s chair that he was “very conscious” that he was at the time dealing with “politically connected” characters and that he would have ensured that political interference into his inquiry would have been limited.

Linnell said at the time he was of the view that Zuma was duty-bound to take the initiative to set up a necessary and urgent inquiry into Eskom with the aim of fixing the power utility.

“Everything in this country has a political undertone to it,” Linnell said, reiterating that he would have made sure to limit political interference over the course of the inquiry into Eskom.

Myeni, however, has denied that Zuma was involved in the said meeting.

In her statement to the parliamentary portfolio committee read to Zondo, Myeni questioned why would Zuma meddle in a manner in which Tsotsi has alleged during his testimony at the commission.

Myeni says in her statement that Zuma would have written to the then minister whose portfolio Eskom falls under and proposed steps to address challenges at the power utility.

Linnell, however, was adamant that Zuma was present at the meeting, he recalled that it was agreed at the end of the meeting that the former president would communicate with the relevant minister at the time to get their concurrence.

Zondo said it was strange that Myeni has denied that Zuma was present at the meeting while Linnell insists that he was.

“Without any doubt, Mr Chairman,” Linnell said on Zuma’s presence.

Myeni has also denied that her son was present at the meeting.

“My recollection is that he [Thalente] was at the meeting … he was present at the meeting, he wasn’t a participant in the meeting,” Linnell said, adding that he recalls that Maswanganyi was also present “and played a role in that meeting”.

Linnell told Zondo that he was of the view that Tsotsi was “uncomfortable” with being at the meeting and that the former Eskom chair had been opposed to the removal of the power utility’s executives at the time, including former chief executive officer at Eskom Tshediso Matona.

Matona was suspended on 11 March 2015, with the reasons given by the board at the time being that it had resolved to set up an inquiry into the power utility’s affairs which he, Matona, and other executives could not be a part of.

Linnell said Tsotsi was, however, “comfortable” with the inquiry into the power utility.

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