NATIONAL NEWS - Former SAA chairperson Dudu Myeni failed to appear at the High Court in Pretoria on Monday in a case brought against her by the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) and the SAA Pilots’ Association (SAAPA).
Her excuse was apparently that she doesn’t have enough money to travel to court, though she had previously said she intended to contest the case.
The groups are trying to have the controversial Myeni, a close friend of former president Jacob Zuma, declared a delinquent director for her fiduciary conduct.
Outa said in a statement on Monday that Myeni “called Outa’s legal team this morning to say she can’t afford to get to Pretoria for the case against her” even though Myeni had known about the date since February last year.
They said they were ready at the court “for the long-awaited start to the delinquent director case against Myeni, but she didn’t arrive”.
Instead, she called in with her excuse, they said, which they had to pass on to the court on her behalf since her lawyer was not even present.
Today’s trial date had already been set in February 2018, they pointed out.
Judge Ronel Tolmay rolled the case over until Tuesday, to give Myeni the last chance to appear. If she fails to appear tomorrow, the case is expected to continue without her.
“Outa was here in full force to listen to the matter,” said Advocate Stefanie Fick, Outa’s chief legal officer, after the hearing was rolled over.
“Tomorrow, watch this space. We will again all be here in full force to see what happens. Dudu Myeni, a delinquent director? Yes, we believe she is.”
The application was launched on 7 March 2017 by Outa and SAAPA against Myeni. SAA and Air Chefs (Myeni was a director of both these SOEs at the time) and the minister of finance (who was responsible for SAA at the time) were also cited as respondents, Outa has explained.
Myeni served on the SAA board from 2012 to 2017, with the finances of the state-owned company reaching perilous levels.
“During Myeni’s tenure as chairperson‚ SAA ran up losses of R16.844 billion over five years (2012/13 to 2016/17)‚ despite that fact that SAA was profitable from 2009/10 to 2011/12,” according to Outa.
“This is believed to be the first application for delinquency against a director of a state-owned enterprise. Such a declaration would block her from holding any positions as a director,” added Outa, which believes that such action is crucial to restoring accountability in SOEs.
Myeni is currently listed as a director of 13 entities, including Centlec SOC, which is the Mangaung municipality electricity utility, and the Jacob Zuma Foundation NPC. A declaration of delinquency would remove her from these positions.
The state-owned airline has received numerous bailouts and is expected to ask for another bailout from parliament to remain a going concern.
According to the National Treasury, SAA needs an additional R4 billion for the current financial year. Last year, it received a R5 billion lifeline to prevent it from defaulting on debt repayments.
Finance Minister Tito Mboweni is of the view that cash-strapped state-owned entities constantly being bailed out should be placed under curatorship. He has even appointed chief restructuring officers for Eskom, the SABC and SAA.