Former South African Airways (SAA) chair Dudu Myeni has been banned from holding directorships for life and ordered to pay legal costs after a three-year battle to hold her responsible for financial mismanagement at the state-owned airline.
An associate of former president Jacob Zuma and the head of his charitable foundation, Myeni presided over a sharp deterioration of the unprofitable carrier’s finances until her departure in 2017. The company has yet to recover, and was placed in a local form of bankruptcy protection late last year.
“She was a director gone rogue. She did not have the slightest consideration for her fiduciary duty to SAA,” Judge Ronel Tolmay said in a ruling by the High Court in Pretoria on Wednesday. “Her actions caused SAA and the country immense harm.”
Myeni didn’t respond to a phone call and message seeking comment.
SAA was at the heart of widespread claims of corruption at state-owned companies during Zuma’s tenure, a scourge commonly known as state capture. President Cyril Ramaphosa, who took office in 2018, has initiated several inquiries but prosecutions have rarely followed.
The case against Myeni was brought by the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa), which campaigns against graft, and the SAA Pilots Association. The judgment and evidence will be handed to South Africa’s National Prosecuting Authority to be considered for any criminal activity, Outa said in a statement.
“It is important to hold people like Ms Myeni to account, as opposed to seeing them get away with acts of gross misconduct, year after year,” said Outa chief legal officer Stephanie Fick. “Imagine what could have been done with the endless amounts of taxes lost in her tenure to alleviate poverty and advance democracy.”
SAA’s future remains uncertain. Administrators have sent all staff on unpaid leave and all commercial passenger flights are grounded due to travel bans to contain the coronavirus. Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan is keen to use whatever is salvageable to create a new airline, but the business-rescue team says that’s only possible with new funding.
Outa’s case against Myeni focused on two incidents from 2015: The collapse of a route-sharing agreement with Emirates Airline that would have earned SAA about $100 million a year, and the failure to conclude a plane-swap deal with manufacturer Airbus.
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