Former SAA chairperson Dudu Myeni cost the airline billions by thwarting deals with Emirates and Airbus that were meant to improve the SOE’s profitability and reduce its reliance on government bailouts, the airline’s former chief financial officer (CFO) Wolfgang Meyer testified on Friday.

A Daily Maverick report says Meyer – CFO from June 2011 to November 2015 – was testifying in the Gauteng High Court (Pretoria), where Outa and the SAA Pilots’ Association want Myeni to be declared a delinquent director.

‘She displayed a total lack of independence. She would interfere in operational matters. She would engage directly with suppliers, she would blatantly lie to the Minister and to the board. She would unilaterally try and change and misrepresent board meetings,’ said Meyer.

‘She ignored governance procedures, for instance in the appointment of advisers. She managed through fear and victimisation and she managed board meetings very poorly,’ Meyer continued.

SAA and Emirates were set to agree to a new deal that would expand its connectivity and provide a guaranteed additional $100m in revenue per annum.

‘It would have put SAA in a different league,’ said Meyer.

According to the DM, Meyer was in France with then CEO Nico Bezuidenhout in June 2015 for the Paris Airshow. Emirates had organised an event to announce the deal the next morning when Myeni called Bezuidenhout. Meyer said he put the call on speaker and Myeni told him not to sign the deal ‘based on an instruction from the President’.

Meyer did not believe then President Jacob Zuma had instructed her to scrap the deal and that she was using his name to legitimise her decision.

‘I was horrified. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing; so much time went into this transaction,’ Meyer testified.

The next morning Bezuidenhout went to the press event, where media had already started gathering, and told the CEO of Emirates they couldn’t sign the deal.

‘It was probably the most embarrassing moment of my life, just to say the least, apart from being horrified and cross,’ Meyer testified.

He told Judge Ronel Tolmay: ‘To say the least, my lady, I think it’s criminal.’

According to the DM report, the court also heard how Myeni allegedly obstructed an agreement to lease aircraft from Airbus, which could have saved SAA billions.

Full Daily Maverick report