Former SAA exec says Dudu Myeni asked staff to 'do illegal things'

SAA's former chief financial officer Phumeza Nhantsi has testified that the airline's ex-chair, Dudu Myeni, asked staff to "do illegal things".

Myeni pressured her to not take documents to the airline's board for approval but rather sign off on them herself, Nhantsi told the judicial commission of inquiry into state capture on Wednesday. She said these were documents that needed board approval. 

"In a way she was asking us to do illegal things [...] I feel if you do them she will again come back and say you did things that were illegal."

The inquiry has been investigating allegations of state capture, corruption and fraud at state entities since August 2018.

Asked by the evidence leader why she did not alert authorities of her fears of illegal activity as stipulated under the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act, Nhantsi said events overtook her. She argued she was more focused at the time on safeguarding the airline's assets.

Relentless pressure

Nhantsi was appointed SAA's interim CFO in November 2015. Her position was made permanent in May 2017 and she was suspended in March 2018.

She told the inquiry that she faced unrelenting pressure from Myeni to bypass the airline's board with Myeni calling her multiple times a day in 2016.

The then chair, according to Nhantsi, wanted her to not cancel a contract with a little-know company called BnP Capital to source a R15bn debt restructuring loan for the embattled airline. 

The contract was eventually cancelled on July 21 after law firm Webber Wentzel threatened to take SAA to court, the inquiry has heard previously. BnP Capital's license to operate as a financial services provider had at the time been suspended. 

Nhantsi also told the commission that Myeni pressured her to appoint someone who had 'failed dismally" in an interview. She said she tried to diffuse the situation by saying she would try and find another position for the candidate, but did not act on it.

On Tuesday Nhantsi told the commission that, shortly after joining the airline in 2015, she was told by Myeni to interact with her "personal advisor" Masotsha Mngadi who was not a SAA employee. 

Myeni was replaced as SAA's chairperson in October 2017. Former Bosasa executive Angelo Agrizzi previously told the commission that Myeni was paid R300 000 monthly by Bosasa. Myeni has denied the allegations, telling eNCA nobody could "test her with money". 

The inquiry continues. 

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