R1.5bn Emirates deal was unlawful, Myeni tells court

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Former South African Airways chairperson Dudu Myeni made her fourth appearance at the Pretoria High Court on Tuesday, where she was questioned on her alleged interference in the signing of a lucrative code-sharing deal between SAA and Emirates.

Myeni was testifying in her defence in a delinquency case brought by the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse and the SAA Pilots Association.

Myeni told the court she did not oppose the deal, but according to her understanding, the board faced limitations in allowing it to go ahead, as the final decision was subject to government approval.

"It is my understanding at the time that we were saying [government] can go ahead and approve the memorandum," said Myeni.

OUTA Advocate Carol Steinberg told the court that Myeni opposed the Emirates deal, which would have seen the national carrier securing an annual revenue of R1.5bn.   

READ | Zuma told Dudu Myeni to block SAA-Emirates code sharing agreement, court hears

The former chairperson said letters that came from the transport department which sought to establish the details of the code-sharing deal. 

The court further heard that former Chief Executive Officer of SAA, Monwabisi Kalawe, raised concerns about the deal, which then influenced the board’s decision to reconsider approval.

"The letter that was written by Mr Kalawe was saying we are giving out too much to Emirates to the detriment of SAA. Even the GM Commercial was stating that in the world there was no airline that is given so much freedom in one country like what SAA was doing [for Emirates].

"In other words, we were eating out of our market share through giving more to Emirates, that is the unlawfulness," Myeni testified.  

Judge Ronel Tolmay had asked the former chairperson to explain why she considered a deal that would have brought in over a billion rands to SAA to be unlawful.

Myeni reiterated that the board was guided by the former SAA CEO’s concerns.

"Whether there was a hundred million US dollars to be made, I don’t have that kind of information before me. But what we were given was that SAA is shrinking and SAA is allowing the biggest airline in the world to eat its market share," said Myeni.  

Cross-examination will continue on Wednesday. 

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