Zondo report | Why was Dudu Myeni untouchable under Zuma?

No director of any state-owned enterprise seemingly enjoyed the same privileges as Myeni did at SAA.

09 January 2022 - 10:31
By Mawande AmaShabalala
Former president Jacob Zuma walks with Dudu Myeni as he leaves Sibaya Casino in Durban after a meeting. File photo.
Image: Sandile Ndlovu Former president Jacob Zuma walks with Dudu Myeni as he leaves Sibaya Casino in Durban after a meeting. File photo.

Exactly what hold did former SAA board chairperson Dudu Myeni have on ex-president Jacob Zuma?

This is the question many will ask amid fresh evidence that has emerged in part 1 of the Zondo commission report, which proves that Myeni was an untouchable state-owned company director during the Zuma years.

According to the report, which also considered affidavits of witnesses that never appeared at the oral hearings, Myeni, as SAA board chair, enjoyed privileges that far outweighed all Zuma allies in other SOEs.

A case-in-point being that Myeni was the only SOE board chair who had close protectors with high-level intelligence training.

Myeni was also the only public entity board chair to be granted direct access to the controversial head of the State Security Agency’s (SSA) Special Operations Unit, Thulani Dhlomo, who accounted only to Zuma. At a drop of a hat, Dhlomo provided Myeni with agents that she requested for whatever purpose.

If it were not agents who had to guard her, it was those that illegally vetted SAA management in an unheard of and intrusive interrogation that forced seven executives to jump the SAA ship.

Regarding Myeni’s “paranoia” which led to her unleashing intelligence agents on SAA staff, Lindsay Olitzki, who worked as the national carrier’s head of financial accounting, submitted an affidavit to the inquiry.

In the affidavit, Olitzki stated that during the SSA “vetting” of staff — which Myeni tried to justify as necessary to ascertain who was fit to handle classified and top secret documents — she had never encountered such documents in her eight-year career at SAA.

“Ms Olitzki’s affidavit confirmed the extensive and invasive nature of the vetting process. The questions asked in the administrative phase included health, psychiatric treatment, education, substance abuse, romantic relationships and cohabitation arrangements; the forms required the employee to identify referees who had known the employee for 5 to 20 years; details about any travel out of the country and those of the person’s spouse; bank statements; loans; income and expenditure and sources of income,” reads Zondo’s report.

“It is, therefore, reasonable and fair to conclude that the vetting was pointless, harmful and unlawful.”

As if intimidating staff who were not complying with illegalities that Myeni was setting in motion at SAA, she saw it fit that she was deserving of personal protection by specialised bodyguards and needed to intimidate fellow board members at meetings to tighten her grip.

Again, SSA, which through the Special Operations Unit had become a “parallel” intelligence structure serving Zuma and his close allies, was there to come to the rescue.

In this respect, an affidavit and CCTV footage supplied to the commission by Gary Moonsamy, SAA’s head of group security services, proved just how far and wide Myeni’s influence was during the state capture years.

The footage proves how Myeni ditched SAA-sponsored personal protectors for Special Operations Unit spooks who also confiscated electronic devices of board members and staff during meetings.

One of the SSA agents who was caught in the footage, Zamokwakhe Mtolo, who guarded Myeni, confirmed Moonsamy’s version, that he indeed was acting on Dhlomo's instructions.

“Mr Mtolo stated that he was summoned by Mr Dhlomo, together with another member of the SSA by the name of ‘Gerald’ and upon entering the meeting venue, found that Ms Myeni was also there,” writes Zondo.

“Mr Mtolo stated that he had encountered Ms Myeni previously because he was asked to assist her in tracing a cellphone number of a person she claimed was harassing her.

“Mr Dhlomo instructed Mr Mtolo to speed up the investigation into Ms Myeni’s harassment claim and also asked him to accompany Ms Myeni to SAA’s offices at Airways Park and to wait outside a meeting room where Ms Myeni would be attending a meeting.”

When Mtolo started complaining to Dhlomo about some of Myeni’s antics that made him uncomfortable, he was immediately removed from her security detail.

Zondo thus found that there was “overwhelming and corroborated evidence that Ms Myeni was unlawfully benefiting from SSA resources and enjoyed the protection of undercover operatives, trained overseas in counterintelligence strategies and intelligence gathering”.

This, he said, was no doubt a revelation of “how powerful Ms Myeni was and how close she was to President Zuma. The extent of Ms Myeni’s proximity to former President Zuma is also reflected in her dealings with Bosasa and in relation to Eskom.”

Myeni’s shenanigans relating to Eskom — where she allegedly called the shots despite having no legal standing to do so — and Bosasa will surely be contained in part 2s and 3 of Zondo’s final report.