Late, forgetful and without a translator, Dudu Myeni finally sits in inquiry hot seat

26 May 2021 - 07:32 By alex patrick
Former SAA board chairperson Dudu Myeni provided her state capture inquiry testimony via video link on Tuesday evening. File photo.
Former SAA board chairperson Dudu Myeni provided her state capture inquiry testimony via video link on Tuesday evening. File photo.
Image: ESA ALEXANDER/THE TIMES

Former SAA board chairperson Dudu Myeni finally made it to the state capture inquiry hot seat on Tuesday evening after initially ignoring a summons to give evidence earlier that afternoon. 

However, despite her presence, proceedings stalled as Myeni addressed inquiry chair deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo, asking if she could respond in her home language, isiZulu.

Zondo translated after her minutes-long speech that Myeni wanted to respond in a language her neighbours and those close to her could understand. 

He denied her request because, although the inquiry did allow those giving testimony to speak in their home languages, she had not informed them in advance and thus there was no translator on hand.

“We don’t have the time. If it was last year then we could adjourn but I think your reason for giving testimony in isiZulu is not because of difficulty speaking in English,” Zondo said.

He said the inquiry would go ahead in English and Myeni could translate her responses to  isiZulu and submit them to the inquiry so her neighbours could have the isiZulu version.

“Maybe,” was her response to the translation suggestion.

Advocate Pule Seleka was then able to lead evidence.

Testifying via video link, Myeni was asked to respond to earlier testimony by former Eskom chair Zola Tsotsi and SAA legal adviser — and Myeni’s alleged right-handman — Nick Linnell, about two meetings which took place in March 2015. 

According to the pair, Myeni facilitated a meeting with Tsotsi on March 6 2015, at former president Jacob Zumas home in Pretoria, where she allegedly instructed Tsotsi to hold an inquiry with the Eskom board on the running of the entity and then raise the issue of suspending three Eskom executives, including then CEO Tshediso Matona. 

According to Tsotsis testimony, Myeni was giving orders from Zuma. 

The other meeting took place on March 8 in the same year at Zumas presidential home in Durban. According to Tsotsi and Linnell, this meeting was held in two parts — first between Myeni, Tsotsi, Linnell and a man named Jabu Maswanganyi, and with her son Thalente present. The second meeting would later be joined by Zuma.

Linnell testified that he was requested at the last minute to attend the Durban meeting and understood it would be about an investigation the president wanted into Eskom and the firing of executives.

Linnell and Tsotsi said the first meeting was about how they would go about approaching the Eskom inquiry. Afterwards the group moved into another meeting room to discuss their resolution with the former president. 

Although Myenis son was at the meeting, both witnesses said he did not take part. 

Thalente testified at the commission last year when he was called to give evidence over a R2m contract for an Mpumalanga housing project in which he was subcontracted. The allegations are that the contract funds would be paid to Zuma’s charity, the Jacob G Zuma Foundation. Dudu Myeni was the chair of the foundation. 

Myeni’s response to the allegations on Tuesday were at times evasive, and she moved between English and isiZulu despite the earlier translation resolution. She accused the commission of gunning for Zuma, and seemingly forgot what happened in the meetings.

Although she confirmed the meetings took place, her version of events were different. 

According to Myeni, she was approached by a man she refused to name as she “didn’t want to incriminate” herself. The man was Maswanganyi, as Zondo found out after forcing Myeni to reveal his name.

She said Maswanganyi came to her on several occasions to ask that she meet with Tsotsi, who wanted advice about hiring legal council. Tsotsi also wanted her to introduce him to the president but she claimed she didn’t know what it was about.

She called the testimonies “misleading, sensational and lies”.

“Dont be surprised when I say this. I have highlighted before at the commission that it is unfortunate we are not delving into the real issues — that Tsotsi wanted to meet me first — [but the commission rather wants] to take the route of highlighting these meetings.

“I was never in any board at Eskom. I had no interest [in the] problems at Eskom. Took [the request from Tsotsi] as a colleague who needed my assistance and my assistance to meet Zuma.

“This whole thing is so dramatised with him, saying inaccurate things. The meetings took place but I dont remember the content. I have a problem. I dont have my diary. At every meeting I have a diary where I write the minutes [of the meeting] so I cant say what happened on March 6 and 8.”

Myeni said she was being set up by both Tsotsi and Linnell and there was no meeting at the behest of “uBaba Zuma”.

When questioned about the meeting with Zuma, Myeni responded:  “This commission loves Mr Zuma. It adores Mr Zuma, even when [the events] have nothing to do with him.”

But Zondo wasn't having any of it, reminding her that the commission had not said anything about Zuma, it was the witnesses who had, and her task was to respond to their testimony.

Myeni said: “These things are hearsay and gossip, misleading the commission, and Im glad I can clarify. Its a lie. Tsotsi wanted assistance from a legal person. I shared how Linnell was assisting me.”

This commission loves Mr Zuma. It adores Mr Zuma, even when [the events] have nothing to do with him
Former SAA  board chairperson Dudu Myeni

Seleka ended his questioning by showing Myeni an e-mail sent to her by Linnell on March 18 2015, which was read but not responded to.

“I put this to you — I have seen an e-mail and it deals with an inquiry [regarding the Eskom board] and the issues of the suspension of executives.”

Zondo jumped in: “The versions given by Linnell and Tsotsi, certainly in regards to the meeting of March 8, are backed up by the correspondence of e-mails and resolutions and memos. If you say the discussions did not take place, are you suggesting Linnell fabricated all the documents to implicate people in issues [when there was no discussion]?”

Myeni responded: “The fact that the e-mail spoken about had not been answered, there is no e-mail sent to me which is not responded to. Maybe the e-mail was being sent without me knowing and today I’m in a commission answering questions. I’m seeing the email for the first time now.”

Zondo said: “I have to make findings on what was discussed at the meetings  and if Zuma was present. You say you have no recollection of what was discussed with Linnell. On the other hand Linnell was quite clear about what was discussed.

“With regards to the meeting in Durban, Linnell gave evidence and Tsotsi gave evidence about what was discussed and their evidence was consistent most of the time. They both said you were part of the meeting and playing the role of chair. You were central to the discussion.

“Tsotsi and Linnell had not known each other before this and they had not met before March 8. Yet you and Linnell had been working on SAA issues. He [said he] was at the meeting because he was asked by you to come. Did these two conspire against you? They did not know each other [but you say they] falsely implicated you. Why would Linnell do that to you if you and the board gave him business. Why now turn against you?”

She said: “Why? Simple. I am associated with Zuma through the foundation. I don’t know if they are colluding but I’m guilty because of [my connection to] Zuma? Let me join the IFP, maybe I’ll be safe there.”

She went on to claim that she gave the commission evidence of wrongdoing at SAA but the commission ignored the evidence and instead turned against her.

Zondo said they would look into that claim, making a note to find the reports she said she sent.

Seleka asked: “ Insofar as your version, did you keep minutes of these meetings?”

Myeni replied: “I said whenever I have a meeting I have a diary which says [what] meeting and the venue. That’s why I don't want to commit to a date.”

“You allude to keeping records. I’m asking whether you had a diary in 2015 where you would keep records?” said Seleka

“No, my house was broken into,” said Myeni. 

She was supposed to appear at the inquiry earlier on Tuesday after being served with a summons but decided not to comply, instead sending her lawyers led by advocate Nqabayethu Buthelezi to seek a postponement of the hearing of her evidence.

This did not go down well with Zondo, who instructed the inquiry secretary to lay a criminal charge against Myeni.

This will be the second criminal complaint against Myeni after last November when she unmasked a witness whose identity had been concealed.

On Wednesday the inquiry will hear evidence from suspended SA Revenue Service commissioner Tom Moyane.

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