South Africa

DAYS OF ZONDO

Zuma confidante Dudu Myeni acted with ‘corrupt intent’ at SAA, State Capture Inquiry finds

Former SAA chairperson Dudu Myeni. (Photo: Gallo Images / Rapport / Deon Raath)

Acting Chief Justice Raymond Zondo devoted more than half of his first State Capture Inquiry report to issues at SAA, where he found that former chairperson Dudu Myeni was incompetent and acted with corrupt intent.

The eagerly anticipated final report into State Capture – the first part of which was released on Tuesday night – has painted former SAA chairperson Dudu Myeni, a personal friend of former president Jacob Zuma, as meddling, paranoid, incompetent, prone to intimidating board members and staff, and as having acted with “corrupt intent” throughout her time at the national carrier.

State Capture thrived at SAA and its associated companies because those companies were managed to suit the interests of a “select few”, according to the 874-page report, the first 447 pages of which deal with SAA and its affiliates. 

“The evidence reveals that Ms Myeni was appointed Chairperson of the Board of SAA in circumstances where she was an underperforming Board member. She proceeded, through a mixture of negligence, incompetence and deliberate corrupt intent, to dismantle governance procedures at SAA, create a climate of fear and intimidation and make a series of operational choices at SAA that saw it decline into a shambolic state,” read Part One, Volume One of the report from the almost R1-billion inquiry, chaired by now acting Chief Justice Raymond Zondo. 

Myeni had operated SAA “under a cloud of fear, intimidation, secrecy and paranoia, when a public entity should be operated transparently and with accountability to the South African people who fund its operations”, Zondo said.

He dissected the benefits Myeni unlawfully received from State Security Agency resources, including protection from undercover operatives “trained overseas in counterintelligence strategies and intelligence gathering”. 

“This reveals how powerful Ms Myeni was and how close she was to President Zuma. The extent of Ms Myeni’s proximity to former President Zuma is also reflected in her dealings with Bosasa and in relation to Eskom.” 

Judicial Commission of Inquiry Into State Capture Report_Part 1

Also not spared in the report is Yakhe Kwinana, one-time chairperson of South African Airways Technical (SOC) Ltd (Saat). It was during the tenure of both women, according to Zondo, that there was a “steady decline in the quality and effectiveness of the governance of SAA from 2012 onwards. 

“During both their tenures, acts of corruption and fraud took place at SAA and Saat. Committed managers, who tried to stand up to the increasingly unreasonable and unlawful demands of these Board members, were slowly but surely removed from their positions. 

“The auditors appointed to SAA for the 2012 to 2016 financial years failed dismally to detect any of this fraud and corruption. The internal audit function within SAA was also hopelessly ineffective in identifying or limiting these criminal acts.” 

Myeni – who retained her position for just under five years – and board members closely aligned to her, had caused “sustainable damage” to the national carrier, according to the report.

“They created a climate so intolerable for many personnel that they left the airline or were forced out only to be replaced by more pliant employees.” 

Promulgated as the Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture, Corruption and Fraud in the Public Sector Including Organs of State, the commission was gazetted on 23 January 2018 by Zuma and mandated to probe allegations of attempts to influence those involved in the looting of state resources – including Zuma and his family – for personal enrichment. 

“From the time of her appointment as Chair, many people within SAA and officials in government, attempted to speak out against Ms Myeni and to stop her from wreaking havoc at the SOE. However, all attempts to criticize or remove her were met with resistance at the highest level. Two successive Ministers of Finance were, despite their efforts, unable to remove her from office. In 2016, Minister Gordhan was forced to replace the entire Board of SAA to ‘mitigate the harm’ that its Chair had caused, and would likely continue to cause, to the entity,” said Zondo.  

The report details a timeline of Myeni’s tenure at the national carrier from her appointment as acting chair in October 2012. 

At that stage, Myeni was already well known in the public arena for her handling – or mishandling – of bulk water provider Mhlathuze Water, and her relationship with Zuma. She was in 2020 implicated at the commission by an in-camera witness, Mr X, for allegedly receiving laundered money during her tenure as the water board chair.  

Zondo’s report also makes plain that Myeni had a penchant for evading accountability, and that she tried to do the same during her appearances at the commission. 

During those appearances – one of which she initially skipped, claiming there was some sort of miscommunication – she refused to answer questions on the basis of privilege against self-incrimination. She also said she was “not comfortable” answering certain questions, which were placing her in a “bad light”, or that she would rather not answer because of pending civil proceedings. 

In November 2020, during her first evidence session, Myeni revealed the identity of Witness X, despite a ruling by Zondo that his name should not be made public because of safety concerns. 

This, along with Myeni’s obfuscation and refusals to answer, according to Zondo’s report, “revealed a sustained disdain for the authority and processes of the commission”. 

In one of several cases of alleged fraud and corruption involving Myeni that were put before the commission, Mr X had told Zondo that he received R3.15-million into his business account from Myeni’s son Thalente, in three tranches, between the end of 2015 and early 2016, even though he had no dealings with Thalente or Thalente’s business. 

Shortly after the money was paid in, Myeni allegedly told Mr X to use it to make certain payments. Some was drawn and given to Myeni in cash, while two other payments went into an account belonging to the Jacob Zuma Foundation. Mr X contended he did not know who the recipient was at the time. Zondo described him as a “candid and frank” witness in the report. 

It has since been revealed that the money paid to Thalente was from the coffers of the Free State government. It was allegedly laundered through two of Thalente’s companies before making its way to Myeni and to the Jacob Zuma Foundation. 

Zondo says in the report that the flow of these funds needs to be investigated “to establish whether there was a corrupt relationship between any of these parties in terms of which state funds were redirected to benefit private parties, including the Jacob Zuma Foundation”. 

In May 2020, Myeni was declared a delinquent director for life by the Pretoria High Court, in terms of the Companies Act. The suit was brought by the civil action group Outa and the SAA Pilots’ Association.  

While receiving the hefty report from Zondo at a ceremonial handover on Tuesday evening, President Cyril Ramaphosa said it was, “A defining moment in our country’s moment to [definitively] end the era of State Capture and restore the capability and credibility of our institutions and government.” DM

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  • Four years ago, I (and probably many others) was deeply sceptical about the worth of the State Capture Commission, thinking that it would be a repeat of the Seriti Commission. I am absolutely delighted to discover that I was so far off the mark, right through to the carefully reasoned strategy employed by dividing the report and immediately releasing each part to the public.
    Hats off, Three cheers and any other accolades one can think of, to Judge Zondo and his team for a job really well done.
    Was the fire in Parliament building a last desperate attempt by those implicated, to divert attention from the report, the contents of which they were likely already fully aware of?

    • I echo and agree with all that you have said, Terry. That the unemployed indigent currently in the dock for the clearly massively planned assault on Parliament, is represented by an EFF attorney, ought clearly to assist the Hawks and other agencies.

  • Roll on Zondo.
    So far the only prosecution in the whole State Capture fiasco has been the Delinquent Director finding against Dudu Myeni and that as a result of private prosecution.
    Time to roll out the big guns with serious jail time and asset forfeiture for many more top SOE executives and their political lapdog who have been living it up on their ill-gotten gains!

    • Peter, this report is way too big and complex for the NPA to handle. Private procecutions is the only way to get these crooks to account before they turn 100 and too old to go to jail. Should private procections be given a green light, I will donate a R100 from my montly tips to support such bodies.

  • Much of the findings has been in the public domain for some time, but now it is “authoritative”. However my concern is that the downward slide in the country will not be stopped until professionally competent and qualified persons with administrative integrity form the majority of public servants. There are a number of persons filling senior posts such as DDG who I am aware of who do not posses the necessary competence and experience. I say this with background of being a DDG from 1989 to 1998 and having acted as DG for a short period as well as Ministerial Advisor, in a department which was regularly given a ‘A’ rating by the media and the opposition.

      • I obviously cannot on this forum, however my remarks are in line with inter alia, the Public Service Commission’s report which I seem to remember having seen in the media regarding the “qualifications”, or lack thereof of many senior public servants. I even seem to remember the State President commenting on this situation and calling it unfortunate. Also, In the Engineering sector the Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA) has prerequisite about who is professionally competent to practice in certain areas of Engineering. An investigation of the extent to which these ECSA requirements are complied with in the public sector would be interesting.

    • I can’t see any competent individuals with integrity being appointed in any high level public service positions. The anc is still in charge and cr has made it clear that he supports cadre deployment no matter the consequences, as long as the anc survives. I feel sorry for de Ruyter at Eskom – kicking and fighting against the shareholder (the anc rulers) to get rid of incompetent employees.