BUY FACE TIME WITH NUMBER 1
SAA chairperson runs lucrative consultancy that offers access to VIPs. SAA pilots lose confidence in the board and are concerned at growing turbulence.
SAA board chairperson Dudu Myeni is making tens of thousands of rands selling access to President Jacob Zuma.
Invoices to Mamelodi Sundowns football club from her private company, Dudu Myeni Consulting, which City Press has seen, show how Myeni charges for meetings with and introductions to “HE”, an abbreviation for His Excellency President Jacob Zuma.
Myeni also bills Sundowns for arranging meetings between its chairperson Patrice Motsepe, HE and various other dignitaries, among them deputy ministers, traditional leaders and international personages.
In May, Myeni billed Sundowns for “plans to introduce the newly appointed President of IMF [International Monetary Fund] to the Chairman [Motsepe] at WEF [the World Economic Forum for Africa held in Cape Town].” This appears to be the new president of the African Development Bank Akinwumi Adesina rather than the head of the International Monetary Fund.
In February, Myeni billed Sundowns for work on an agricultural project in the Ugu district of Kwa-Zulu-Natal, which included meeting with Deputy Agriculture Minister Bheki Cele for “planning”, and “launch preparations” for dignitaries, which included Zuma, Kwa-Zulu-Natal Premier Senzo Mchunu and Motsepe.
City Press has confirmed that the project went ahead. Cele did not respond to requests for comment.
Myeni is chairperson of the Jacob G Zuma Foundation and enjoys a close relationship with the president. However, it has not been previously revealed that she charges for access to him.
Myeni, speaking through lawyers, refused to comment on detailed questions, despite initial undertakings to do so in telephone conversations and emails.
Myeni would not provide answers to detailed questions, including who else she sells access to, which other companies or organisations pay her for access to the president, and whether her consulting business benefits conflict with her public roles as SAA chairperson and head of the president’s charitable foundation.
Sundowns acting general manager Sizwe Nzimande said the invoices related to football development.
“Sundowns was approached by amateur football development participants and some of its supporters in Kwa-Zulu-Natal to help develop football in northern Kwa-Zulu-Natal. We were concerned about governance and accountability and suggested that they identify a structure or entity we could work through. They suggested Dudu Myeni as she had been involved in football development in the area for quite some time,” he said.
One of the charities Sundowns supports is Zuma’s wildly popular annual Msholozi Cup.
But the invoices are from Myeni’s private company, not from the Foundation. Her consultancy is also not listed on the Companies and Intellectial Properties Commission. Her invoices mention nothing of football, although there is a single reference to a “fundraising planning” meeting.
Myeni and Yakhe Kwinana (a chartered accountant who also serves on the Foundation’s board) were the only two SAA directors to make the cut when Public Enterprises minister Lynn Brown made sweeping changes at the top of the bleeding national carrier.
Last week reports suggested new turbulence as Myeni sought to replace acting CEO Nico Bezuidenhout, the fourth chief executive in five years.
News24 reported yesterday that SAA confirmed the resignation of its chief strategy officer Barry Parsons. His resignation letter contained damning remarks about the airline which is surviving on government bailouts. “Unfortunately I have lost all confidence in the board to lead and progress the business, and when I look at the 2015 corporate plan and the priorities the board seem to have... I cannot reconcile the two”.
City Press last week reported that Kwinana had approached a Bidvest subsidiary which runs various services for SAA and insisted on appointing an additional and hand-picked 30% black shareholder into its business, ostensibly as a condition for the renewal of its contract.
News of Myeni’s sideline business comes amid increasing tensions within the airline.
A senior insider at SAA told City Press the relationship between CEO Nico Bezuidenhout and Myeni had initially been good and some stability had been returning to the company. But after a proposed joint venture with Emirates fell apart, things at SAA started to rapidly deteriorate.
Moves are now afoot to either fire Bezuidenhout or send him back to SAA’s low cost carrier Mango. The insider said they understood that the airline’s human resources department had already begun drawing up the criteria in order to advertise for a new CEO of SAA.
Captain John Harty, chairman of the South African Airways Pilots’ Association (SAAPA), said: “We do believe there’s a leadership crisis, the board has been decimated, there are only four or five members of the board left.”
Harty said SAA pilots had become very concerned by reports of boardroom infighting, but despite attempts to engage Myeni, she has failed to respond. Now SAAPA wants to approach Brown.
“The only info we get from the company is what we read in the newspaper,” he said. “We will be sending a letter to all the relevant stakeholders to express our concerns about the lack of leadership at SAA at the moment, and we will be considering our options.”
IN BLACK AND WHITE
The invoices to Mamelodi Sundowns from Dudu Myeni Consulting. The invoices reflect planned
meetings with HE (President Zuma)
SAA chairperson Dudu Myeni
GOLDEN EAR President Jacob Zuma
BUSINESSMAN Patrice Motsepe