Dudu Myeni's legal team rejects claims she blocked Emirates deal

SAA acting CEO Nico Bezuidenhout.
SAA acting CEO Nico Bezuidenhout.

The lawyer of former SAA board chairperson, Dudu Myeni, on Tuesday attempted to poke holes in the evidence of the airline's ex-interim CEO, Nico Bezuidenhout, who claims she scuppered a lucrative memorandum of understanding between the national carrier and Emirates.

The non-binding deal was supposed to be sealed at the Paris Air Show in 2015, in what would have been an extension of an existing code sharing deal between the two airlines, allowing greater connectivity routes for SAA.

Bezuidenhout testified earlier that Myeni had blocked the deal "at every turn" and instructed him on the eve of the signing on June 16, 2015 not to go ahead, saying she had received an instruction from former president Jacob Zuma not to sign.

He said the call was followed by a WhatsApp message from Myeni the following day, insisting that "we do not approve" of the signing. He said he had assumed that the message referred to her and Zuma.

Myeni's lawyer, Nqabayethu Buthelezi stressed that there was no board resolution on the conclusion of the deal, while Bezuidenhout, on the other hand, mentioned that all other members of the board were in agreement, except Myeni.

"Ms Myeni consistently stopped the deal without any reason," said Bezuidenhout.

Buthelezi said there was no evidence to support Bezuidenhout's version that, by saying "we do not approve", Myeni was referring to herself and Zuma. Instead, he put it to the court that Myeni's communication simply referred tp the board.

"She was speaking on behalf of the board when she said do not sign ....meaning 'we' [the board] are not done with our processes," said Buthelezi.

Buthelezi argued that Myeni had no powers to instruct Bezuidenhout not to sign the deal without a board resolution.

He also said Zuma's name was only brought up when an Emirates representative expressed their disappointment at the unexpected turn of events and said they would escalate the matter with the president.

Buthelezi further stated that the message relayed to Bezuidenhout by Myeni in June not to sign did not lead to the collapse of the deal, as the deal was still on the table months after the Paris Air Show events.

Bezuidenhout, who is now heading up low-cost airline Mango, mentioned that Myeni was at some point skeptical that the non-binding MoU with Emirates was a takeover of the embattled airline.

The court case brought by the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) and the SAA Pilots Association (SAAPA) seeks to have  Myeni declared a delinquent director, based on erosion of governance and the financial position of the airline during her tenure, which spanned from December 2012 to October 2017.

The hearing will resume on Wednesday, with evidence by former chief commercial officer Sylvain Bosc.

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