Former SAA chairperson Dudu Myeni refused to comment during her third day of testimony at the State Capture Commission of Inquiry on evidence that Bosasa spent almost R500,000 on security upgrades at her Richards Bay home, which she did not declare to SAA or the Mhlathuze Water Board, where she also served as a director at the time.
Evidence leader advocate Kate Hofmeyr questioned Myeni on testimony from former Bosasa head of special operations Richard Le Roux, who said the controversial company spent an estimated R486,514.63 in equipment and labour on security upgrades at Myeni’s home. Bosasa footed the bill and Le Roux was not aware of any arrangement between Myeni and the company.
“May I not respond, chairperson, in case I incriminate myself,” the former SAA chair repeated.
Myeni has avoided answering questions by invoking the right against self-incrimination, claiming she’ll likely soon face criminal charges.
Former ANC MP Vincent Smith was charged in October 2020, alongside former Bosasa COO Angelo Agrizzi for similar accusations. Smith was accused of receiving unlawful gratifications from Bosasa, including an electric fence at his home estimated to have cost R200,000.
During her first two days of testimony, Myeni refused to answer direct and simple questions but would occasionally provide comment, often questioning her accusers or describing herself as a victim of a broad conspiracy.
On Friday, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo told Myeni that she can’t have it both ways.
“If you invoke the privilege, then you invoke the privilege. You can’t give some answer and then after say you’re invoking the privilege to that question. So you have to make up your mind on each question,” said the deputy chief justice.
Myeni repeated the same phrase throughout the day – “May I not respond, chairperson, in case I incriminate myself” – as Hofmeyr presented her with allegations that have come before the commission.
She allegedly met Agrizzi and Bosasa CEO Gavin Watson at the Sheraton Hotel in Pretoria on 23 September 2015. Agrizzi claimed Myeni handed over a police docket related to investigations into corruption at Bosasa.
In an affidavit submitted to the commission, Myeni said they met to discuss potential donations towards Zuma’s birthday party. Zuma’s birthday is in April, which Myeni refused to confirm. She also refused to comment on whether she attended the meeting.
Myeni’s advisor Nick Linnel, who was invoicing SAA for his allegedly irregular work at the airline, included his stay at the Sheraton in his expenses. The commission found out from the hotel that Myeni had a room three doors down from Linnel’s on 22 and 23 September 2015.
Agrizzi provided a photo of the controversial documents and an independent investigator has testified that the carpet in the picture matched the sixth floor of the Sheraton, where Agrizzi said the meeting took place.
“Against all of that evidence, will you deny that you were there on that day,” asked Hofmeyr.
Myeni continued to claim her right not to incriminate herself.
Hofmeyr also read a statement from former acting SAA CEO Nico Bezuidhenhout. He claimed Myeni suggested the airline talk to Bosasa about catering contracts for struggling SAA subsidiary Air Chefs.
Bezuidenhout’s statement described a meeting with Watson and Agrizzi, which Myeni allegedly set up, where Watson opened the meeting with a prayer before enquiring about an SAA tender for security services and promoting Bosasa’s catering capabilities.
Hofmeyr also presented Myeni with evidence about the Hawks’s attempted search-and-seize operation at her Richards Bay home in October 2019. The Hawks took Bosasa’s Le Roux on the operation so he could point out the security installations.
The police, who had a warrant to raid the property due to the likelihood that Myeni would hide or destroy evidence, couldn’t access the property on the first day they visited. On the second day, they received limited access to the premises.
“Ms Myeni, I put it to you that you have been and you remain a powerful person. You’re a person who can delay the police executing a search and seizure warrant as recently as October of last year. Do you have a comment on that,” asked Hofmeyr.
Myeni was being questioned about the allegedly unlawful protection she received from the State Security Agency, and how she allegedly used the spy agency to hound out opponents at SAA, when she decided to respond.
“I can see that I have no rights as a black woman because no white woman who has a house without her being on the premises can allow just about any person to walk into the house,” she said.
In-camera witness “Mr X” has testified that he would go to Myeni’s house and leave cash in the files in her office as payment for a contract she allegedly facilitated with the Mhlathuze Water Board for the Nkandla municipality.
Myeni revealed Mr X’s identity during her testimony on Thursday. Zondo had ruled the witness’s identity should remain secret due to threats on his life. Hofmeyr called for Myeni to be charged for breaching the commission’s act.
When presented with her own affidavit to the commission, Myeni acknowledged her signature, after prodding. But when Hofmeyr presented her with deposit slips Myeni allegedly made to the Jacob G Zuma Foundation, which she chairs, worth up to R100,000, she refused to acknowledge her signature.
Former Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene claimed that he met Zuma and Myeni in November 2015 and told the then-president that Myeni was a reckless leader who risked the finances of SAA and the country. Nene claimed Zuma would not approve any board that doesn’t include Myeni.
Myeni responded: “I am guilty, chairperson, by association of [former] President Zuma and it appears here there has been very glaring lines to everyone who chooses not to distinguish properly between the professional relationship and the relationship where a person presides over the Jacob Zuma Foundation.”
Nene was fired as Finance Minister by Zuma in December 2015. Asked about the resulting collapse in the stock and bond markets, Myeni said “there was too much rigging of the Rand at that time”.
Myeni’s testimony at the commission is expected to be finalised on Friday. DM
Jimi Hendrix was a private in the 101st Airborne in 1962.
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