Straight talk with Sifiso Mahlangu: Dudu Myeni

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Outgoing chairperson of SAA Dudu Myeni has leveled bombshell allegations against a number of prominent politicians, including Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, Pravin Gordhan and the wife of secretary-general of the ANC, Gwede Mantashe.

In an exclusive interview this week, Myeni said the national airline was a “good” state-owned enterprise before an aviation “expert’’ named Coleman Andrews joined SAA. He earned more than R220m during his 20-month stay at SAA.

Andrews’s salary was more than $1m (about R8m at the time) a year, excluding a yearly bonus of 125% of his salary and was granted 18 million SAA share options at one cent each.

Myeni claimed Andrews sold the airline’s fleet that had been paid off, forcing SAA to lease aircraft, spending billions in government guarantees.

Myeni said Andrews and former finance minister Pravin Gordhan were pivotal in impoverishing SAA. She said she was attacked for fighting for transformation at SAA.

“The company that gets all the business at SAA belongs to the top brass of this country, Pravin Gordhan, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and the ANC secretary-general’s wife, Nolwandle Mantashe.

“All business goes to Bidvest, all the cleaning tenders, the security tenders, the food on the flights. Do some research and see who owns Bidvest,” Myeni said.

When asked about her relationship with Gordhan, Myeni said: “Our relationship was nonexistent. It’s true that he tried to sabotage me, making me look like an incompetent board chairperson when the real issue was suppressing information that a group of people continued to loot the airline.

“How can an honourable member stand up in Parliament and blame President Zuma and the Guptas when he knows very well that he’s misleading Parliament?” Myeni asked.

Myeni, who served two terms at the helm of the SAA board, claimed Gordhan gagged her from speaking to the media. “Why do you think I’m only giving you this interview now? Gordhan prevented me from speaking through what he called a communication protocol.”

When asked if she was aware of a report on a forensic investigation conducted at SAA, she said: “I launched the investigation and it will shock you as to what we unravelled. There are evergreen contracts at SAA given to a few families and you can’t touch those contracts.

“As soon as the investigation was launched, routes that had supposedly dried up opened with millions suddenly flowing. Black pilots are still paid less than white pilots. When I spoke out I was vilified.”

Myeni said when she launched the investigation, she experienced an onslaught from the media with private investigator Paul O’Sullivan sending her letters asking her to resign.

Myeni claimed O’Sullivan circulated documents suggesting she had billions of rands in foreign bank accounts.

When she responded to him through her lawyers, he allegedly withdrew the letters and offered to pay Myeni R50000 in damages.

Responding to The New Age yesterday, Gordhan said he owned Bidvest shares but it did not mean he was in business with the company. “Why do you follow a story on allegations made by someone who has no credibility?”

Mantashe said neither he nor his wife were shareholders in Bidvest.

“My wife was a non-executive director at Mvelaserve and Mvelaserve was bought by Bidvest. My wife resigned from the board of Bidvest because they have gambling interests and because she is the wife of a politically exposed person. It wasn’t going to work.

“The problem with thieves is they want associates. Quote me on this. Dudu Myeni must not behave like a street girl. She must leave SAA quietly, I’m not the one who let her go.”

O’Sullivan said he was unaware of the allegations levelled against him by Myeni. “Do yourself a favour, go look online at what has been happening at SAA. I don’t know anything about what Ms Myeni is saying. I cannot say anything further, I must go.”

Myeni was first appointed to the board in 2009 and became chairperson in 2012. She was reappointed as board chair in September last year for a one-year term which ended yesterday.

The offices of Ramaphosa and Bidvest had failed to respond to emailed questions at the time of going to press.

sifisom@thenewage.co.za

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