Zuma defends SAA chairperson Dudu Myeni

Cape Town - President Jacob Zuma said he “wasn’t even in the country” when Dudu Myeni was reappointed as chairperson of South African Airways (SAA).

Zuma was responding to parliamentary questions when Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane asked him how Myeni could serve a second term, following her “disastrous performance” in the past term.

Despite the national carrier stumbling from one financial crisis to another under Myeni’s leadership, she was reappointed to the helm for another year.

There is widespread speculation that Myeni, who also chairs the Jacob Zuma Foundation, is sheltered by Zuma.

“Her name wasn’t even submitted by Treasury. What confidence do you have in her to turn (an) airline such as SAA around?” asked Maimane.

Zuma responded that he had seen Myeni “working” and that he had full confidence in her.

“SAA has been in difficulty for a long time. It’s not a new matter,” Zuma said. “At one stage we even had to find an expert from the US to help SAA, but it didn’t solve the problem. We’ve had many different CEOs and chairpersons at SAA. Who was the chair that took SAA out of  trouble?”

Zuma continued, saying he didn’t see in which way Myeni was any different from previous chairpersons.

“Cabinet has confidence in the person you are mentioning. And yes, I do. I’ve seen her working like all the other chairs.”

Myeni rejected claims that she is driving SAA into the ground, saying she inherited the financial challenges being experienced by the national carrier. SAA was paying for the actions of the previous board, she said last week.

“We never came to a company that had a healthy balance sheet, our balance sheet was depleted, it’s still depleted today.”

She said that under her leadership a turnaround strategy was created within SAA, which included a forensic investigation to establish why it was in financial trouble; she also claimed progress has been made.

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