Adv Lindi Nkosi-Thomas breaks her silence on SAA allegations

2016-05-16 09:28


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Durban – Senior council advocate Lindi Nkosi-Thomas on Sunday broke her silence about allegations that she allegedly doctored a legal opinion during her stint at South African Airways.

The allegations hang over Nkosi-Thomas like a cloud despite her leaving the national carrier in 2014. A report by the Rand Daily Mail on May 12 also brings up Nkosi-Thomas's past.

Nkosi-Thomas is no stranger to the media, in February she made headlines when she fumbled through her submissions in the Nkandla matter in the Constitutional Court.

Reports from her past emerged that Nkosi-Thomas, who was representing National Speaker Baleka Mbete, had previously been accused of doctoring a legal opinion while she was an SAA board member.

News24 also learnt in February that Nkosi-Thomas was a subject of a criminal investigation.

Fraud case

The Office of the Public Protector told News24 that SAA had asked it to halt its investigation into Nkosi-Thomas, pending a fraud case against her that was subject of a police investigation.

The public protector had been investigating complaints that Nkosi-Thomas allegedly doctored a legal opinion during her tenure at the SAA board.  

However, neither the National Prosecuting Authority or the police could elaborate on the case. NPA spokesperson Luvuyo Mfaku had no knowledge of the matter.  

In a statement addressed to the media on Sunday. Nkosi-Thomas said now that the dust had settled she wanted to address two issues that had been reported in the media - SAA and Nkandla.

Addressing the SAA allegations, Nkosi-Thomas said she was appointed as a non-executive director, a three year term, for the national carrier by former Minister of Public Enterprises, Barbara Hogan in 2009. A position she served in until February 23, 2014.

“During this brief period it came to the board’s attention that the acting CEO had appointed four consultants without following due processes.”

Difference of opinion

She said the then head of legal, risk and compliance, Fikile Thabethe, presented an opinion that SAA was bound by the four consultancy contracts, even though the contracts did not comply with due process.

“It became clear that the opinion, if accepted, would expose the board to contraventions of the Public Finance Management Act in that irregular expenditure and or fruitless and wasteful expenditure would be incurred.”

Nkosi-Thomas said as the chairperson of the SAA board ad hoc litigation committee she differed with Thabethe’s opinion and discussed the basis of her dissent with her.

“The acting head of legal, risk and compliance [Fikile Thabethe] thereafter agreed with my views which were contrary to hers. As a result, the acting head of legal, risk and compliance drafted a letter, for the chairperson’s signature, confirming that the contracts were, indeed, not binding to SAA.”

She said some members of the board asked for a formal opinion on the contracts but Thabethe was on festive season leave at the time.

“Given that we had already agreed on the substantive changes to be effected on her opinion, I proceeded to amend the opinion in line with our agreed legal position as supported by the draft letter to the chairperson.

“This was to later become the basis of the fraud or forgery allegations reported to the SAPS, the Public Protector, the Johannesburg Bar Council and the General Council of the Bar,” explained Nkosi-Thomas.  

She said Thabethe later alleged that she had “doctored” her opinion without her consent.

“I immediately proceeded to solicit a senior counsel’s opinion on the matter. That opinion agreed with mine. The consultants’ agreements were terminated accordingly.”

Saving SAA from wasteful expenditure

She said the NPA, Johannesburg Bar Council and the General Council of the Bar dismissed the forgery or fraud complaint out of hand as lacking in substance.  

“One of the consultants challenged the termination in the Labour Court of South Africa, unsuccessfully. This was yet another vindication of my legal advice to the board of SAA.”

She said her legal opinion saved SAA from fruitless and wasteful expenditure.

“This also saved them from the unauthorised appointments of four consultants in circumstances where SAA’s non-fuel costs were notoriously excessive. Non-fuel costs or the so-called controllable costs are made out of labour, catering and crew accommodation costs,” Nkosi-Thomas said.

She said she hoped to lay the matter to rest once and for all and had no regrets.

"As a member of the Bar of 22 years standing, I would do it all over again, given another chance."

On the Nkandla, the judgment which found that President Jacob Zuma flouted the Constitution when he ignored Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s findings, she said the judgment had clarified the role of the National Assembly.

“The National Assembly’s constitutional mandate is to scrutinise and oversee executive action as opposed to rubber-stamping the findings of such institutions as the Public Protector’s office…

“Where the National Assembly differs with the Public Protector, the Constitutional Court ruled that the matter should be taken for judicial review,” she said.

Read more on:    saa  |  nkandla upgrade

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