Time to ditch dead-weight Dudu Myeni

15 September 2017 - 05:45 By The Times Editorial
An SAA Aircraft on the runway at the OR Tambo International Airport. File photo.
An SAA Aircraft on the runway at the OR Tambo International Airport. File photo.
Image: Gallo Images / The Times / Alon Skuy

As South African Airways nose-dives as a viable entity the airline is scrambling to keep itself in the air by slashing flights and holding out for an anticipated R13-billion state bailout.

But, as one critic observed yesterday, the airline will not be able to cut its way to growth. Far bolder measures are required and the best start is the one which should be the easiest: getting rid of Dudu Myeni, the SAA board chairman who has presided over the airline's most disastrous years.

But Myeni stands as a giant among President Jacob Zuma's untouchables. Her closeness to Zuma is well known - she is also executive chairman of the opaque Jacob G Zuma Foundation - but the reasons for her apparent invincibility in the face of a litany of scandal remains the stuff of water-cooler gossip.

The case against her as chairman of SAA's board is more clear-cut.

The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse, in a court application to have her declared a delinquent director, paints a neat picture of Myeni's serial failures.

She had presided over the airline's loss of more than R10-billion over most of the past decade, marked by malfeasance and an endless turnover of senior managers. Myeni has failed even the most generous interpretation of corporate governance possible.

So why then would Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba have extended her term (which expired in August) until the airline's annual general meeting in November - but which, if precedent holds, could easily be postponed for months more?

Thankfully, parliament's standing committee on finance - citing a host of irregularities - is having none of it, demanding that Gigaba review his decision and report back to the committee within seven days.

There is no way SAA can take to the skies with the weight of Myeni bearing on its tail.