On Thursday, South African Airways (SAA) chairperson Dudu Myeni revealed why she has refused to resign, in response to a question from Democratic Alliance (DA) MP David Maynier.
Myeni said her suitability as chairperson is irrelevant; she has found “no sound reason not to continue to serve” and believes her contribution has added “intrinsic value” to SAA.
“Transformation relating both to procurement of goods and services for SAA and employment equity remain some of the biggest challenges facing the airline today,” she said. “The powerful vested interests have used every means available to defend and further entrench their positions to the exclusion of the majority of the people. In the process, the board, and particularly, current, as chairperson, have been attacked by various forums including the media.”
Maynier’s question to Myeni was whether she still believes that it is in the best interests of the airline for her not to resign.
READ: Myeni’s full letter on why she won’t resign
This was in response to confirmation that SAA made a loss of R4.7bn in the 2014/15 financial year and is projected to make a loss of R1.8bn in 2015/16. The airline only tabled its 2014/15 results in September and has yet to table its 2015/16 financials.
READ: SAA’s losses for 2014/15 almost R1bn more than R4.7bn guarantee
In reaction to the results, DA MP Alf Lees said Myeni “behaves less like a chairperson and more like a corporate warlord, and who has single-handedly driven SAA to the brink of liquidation”.
Many sectors have called for Myeni’s resignation, with critics saying President Jacob Zuma’s close friend is unqualified and too close to the president to head the national carrier transparently. The narrative of state capture also plays into this criticism.
However, Zuma came out in support of Myeni in October, telling Parliament that she was “approved by cabinet, which had considered all the relevant options”.
‘I am SAA’s saviour’
Myeni has now penned an eight-page letter response which she sent to the Standing Committee on Finance, explaining why she is a transformation hero as well as SAA’s saviour and should be allowed to finish her term, which ends in 2017.
Firstly, she states that the poor financial results “cannot be solely attributed” to her as historically “bad decisions … are lumped on my doorstep”.
“It has been established as an irrefutable fact that an airline is a capital intensive business and SAA is no exception,” she said. “SAA has, for many years, been under capitalised, something acknowledged by most, including a series of former boards.
“The challenges of SAA cannot credibly be attributed to me as a person,” she said. “Such a view is as bereft of any empirical corporate rationale as it represents a self-perpetuating narrative.”
Myeni then explained her role as a transformation hero and her fight against privileged capital domination of SAA.
“Whilst the status quo of non-transformation has been allowed to linger, owing largely to those who are hanging onto their ill-gotten unearned privilege, for over 22 years into the constitutional democracy, at the expense of the national imperatives, my term has sought to shake the R24bn procurement spend benefiting 98% of the minority groups,” she said.
“The disadvantaged South Africans, who happen to be the majority, benefit only 2% of the R24bn; this is absurd in any language.
“It is a serious concern that we preside over a state-owned company, which continues to be dominated by one section of the society against the majority who receive crumbs from the R24bn procurement spend,” she said. “Further, I have taken a dim view of the exclusive benefits enjoyed by the pilots, as has been exposed in the leaks from SAA by those who are not happy with the board’s moves to correct the situation. None of these glaring issues have received as much as a whimper from some people.
“I wonder why it is that certain issues are elevated at the expense of the supremely important issues which have a positive bearing on the envisaged state of nationhood,” she said. “I am reluctant to state the obvious (that the key issues are being sneezed at owing to the fact that they tinker with the assumed unearned privilege by some).
“I would have therefore been a revered chairperson had I protected the status quo; the media would be hoisting me overheads (sic) and standing ovation as the most effective chairperson while poverty, unemployment and inequality continues to affect those in the majority and many downtrodden.
“My problem results from doing what is right, investigating losses, dealing with corruption and ensuring that we transform the hugely skewed SAA.
“I therefore respectfully submit that I will not resign.”
That was in reference to the SABC executive, who often publicly reveals how he is triumphantly transforming the state broadcaster.