South Africa

Days of Zondo

Dudu Myeni’s unlawful security tactics and dodgy SAA auditing exposed

Former president Jacob Zuma and former South African Airways chairperson Dudu Myeni at the International Convention Centre in Durban on 4 October 2014. (Photo: GCIS)

The Zondo Commission is hearing its last week of testimony related to SAA, and the misconduct of former board chair Dudu Myeni continues to take prominence. 

Testifying in camera before the Zondo Commission, a State Security Agency (SSA) member identified only as Mr Y told the inquiry how SSA resources were used to provide personal protection to “people who could be seen as supporters of former president Jacob Zuma… who wouldn’t be eligible for protection from the South African Police Service”.

Among the beneficiaries of this unlawful protection: controversial former SAA board chair Dudu Myeni.

Mr Y explained to the commission that if Myeni had believed she required personal protection, the usual protocol would have been for her to approach SSA security advisers allocated to SAA, who would have carried out an assessment of her security needs. But no such request was made.

“We have found no paperwork that would indicate a request or an instruction [to provide Myeni with security],” Mr Y said.

He added that Myeni’s SSA-deployed bodyguards had only become public knowledge after the release of the high-level review panel report into the SSA. The panel was established by President Cyril Ramaphosa in June 2018 and chaired by former minister Sidney Mufumadi.

An affidavit provided to the Zondo Commission by SAA’s head of group security services, Linga Moonsamy, related how Myeni had obtained her own security detail without consultation with SAA’s own security personnel. Moonsamy supplied the commission with a still photograph of the bodyguards taken from CCTV footage – from which Mr Y was able to identify at least one man as a member of the SSA’s special operations unit.

Moonsamy stated that on some occasions, Myeni’s security detail would refuse to sign in at SAA headquarters.

Mr Y told the State Capture inquiry that there should be “no legitimate reason” for this to happen.

Commission evidence leader Michael Mbikiwa drew Mr Y’s attention to another aspect of Moonsamy’s evidence: that Myeni’s security personnel were instructed by her to “confiscate laptops and phones” from SAA executives when they entered meetings with Myeni.

“We don’t have the executive power to confiscate equipment,” Mr Y said in response.

The anonymous SSA member told the commission that the perversion of the SSA’s special operations unit began when Thulani Dlomo was appointed as its manager by Zuma in 2012.

The special operations unit was originally set up to deal with “sensitive operations” and “serious targets”. Under Dlomo, 200 additional agents were brought into the unit – almost exclusively from KwaZulu-Natal – and its mandate changed to focus on protection services, offering support to Zuma and his allies, and carrying out counter-intelligence operations.

This week, the Zondo Commission has heard that SAA was simultaneously receiving too much and too little attention from the SSA. While resources were being used to protect Myeni, the inquiry was told that the necessary SSA vetting was not carried out on the airline’s board members.

Nokunqoba Dlamini, the SSA’s project manager for vetting for SAA, admitted to the inquiry that SAA board members were not included in vetting.

When asked by commission chair Judge Raymond Zondo whether SAA board members would have access to classified information, Dlamini admitted that this was the case. She acknowledged that, in retrospect, the board members should indeed have been vetted.

Dlamini took the inquiry through the steps of vetting: an invasive process which includes an administrative application, interviews, and a polygraph test. She expressed her belief that such vetting can play a vital role in bringing down corruption.

Judge Zondo was unconvinced, raising the obvious retort: “If your theory is that this project reduces corruption and all government employees must be vetted”, then why are there such high levels of corruption?

Dlamini could only respond that not “all” necessary persons have been vetted.

As the Zondo Commission concludes its aviation-related testimony this week, its focus has now shifted to the auditing of SAA.

Of particular interest to the inquiry is the role played by audit firms PWC and Nkonki. The two firms were responsible for auditing SAA from 2012 to 2016, and produced clean audits for the airline every year.

When the auditor-general took over auditing responsibilities in the 2016/2017 financial year, said evidence leader Kate Hofmeyr, the state auditors found SAA’s finances “in a state that can only be described as shambolic”.

Hofmeyr also pointed out that PWC and Nkonki were appointed after the first year without any procurement processes being followed.

“Their own appointment, therefore, constituted irregular expenditure for four years, but was not disclosed,” Hofmeyr said.

Nkonki was forced into liquidation in 2018 after being blacklisted by the auditor-general from working for government entities. This followed the 2017 acquisition of a controlling stake in the firm by Gupta-linked Mitesh Patel.

Polani Sokombela, a business executive at the auditor-general’s office, told the Zondo Commission on Thursday that the auditor-general had raised concerns in 2015 about the appointment of Nkonki without procurement processes being followed.

It was following the intervention of erstwhile finance minister Nhlanhla Nene that the audit of SAA was taken over by the auditor-general’s office.

Sokombela continues to give testimony on Friday, and will be followed by PWC audit partner Pule Mothibe. DM


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