Dudu Myeni: A Litmus Test for SA Black Feminism
The crisis of the South African racist apartheid economy is tangible and objective; there is evidence that patriarchy as a structural function is equally at the service of strengthening the same economy inherited from apartheid. This is the case in South Africa because the ruling party is not the ruling elite.
Violence as we understand it in a situation of those who are oppressed is not only expressed in the physical realm. To be precise there is a phenomenon of regressive violence which is in one aspect physical, but there also is ideological violence which is premised on perception.
Here in this article I argue that Miss Duduzile Myeni is currently undergoing the highest form of gender based violence, infact, grievous woman abuse with an intent to destroy her personhood for good. Something akin to what Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane is currently going through. Something which competent and qualified black women professionals who are no slaves to white capital are vilified for.
Miss Duduzile Myeni, the former SAA board Chairperson is no stranger to such violence. To understand why the attack on Dudu Myeni constitutes gender based violence one must at least have a sound grasp of the contending class forces today and their class objectives in State Owned Enterprises of the country.
There is a political contest between the forces of the ruling elite and their appendages who are heading the state against the working class, which in this case is the only voice that can counter rampant neoliberalism of privatization of state owned enterprises. This contest is also carried out in the terrain of the ideological state apparatus wherein the media, radio, newspapers, bourgeois academics all echo the sentiments that Dudu Myeni plunged SAA into a financial abyss.
Miss Dudu Myeni, a Black African woman from rural Kwa-Zulu is currently a subject in a high court matter led by OUTA (Organization Undoing Tax Avoidance) and the white dominated SAA Pilots Association (SAAPA) to have her declared a delinquent for life because of refusing to sign the lease swap agreement with Airbus and a deal with Fly Emirates during her tenure as a board Chairperson of the National Airline.
As taxpayers, commuters as well patriotic citizens who want to see the country's National Airline accessible to everyone so as to change the lives of the people for good, we are yet to ask the question of what really are the set of facts insofar as the state of the National Airline is concerned surrounding Miss Dudu Myeni.
• SAA Before and After Dudu Myeni
Dudu Myeni has been at the National Airline since 2009 starting out as a non-executive board member. It was only in January 2015 that she assumed the full Chairship of the board after a stint acting as board Chairperson in 2012 following simultaneous resignations of 8 SAA board members including Cheryl Carolus, the then board Chairperson.
Her first year as a board Chairperson came after SAA had recorded R4,5 billion in financial losses for the year 2014/2015. Within a year of her tenure as board Chairperson the losses went down from R4,5 billion to R1,8 billion in 2015/16. The same year in which SAA had undergone a forensic investigation into what constitutes the bulging of its balance sheet. The Ernst & Young forensic report of 2015 uncovered what became the cross on which she was crucified.
What the forensic report exposed was not good for white multinational companies who have been doing business with SAA for the past 60 years:
1. The report found SAA spends over R10 billion on jet fuel per annum. The suppliers are five multinational companies from abroad who have been providing fuel to SAA for the past 60 years.
2. The report also found that Coleman Andrews, who was a member of Bain Capital owned by Mitt Romney was appointed by Saki Macozoma in 1998 who was then Chairman of South African Airways to fix the R500 billion debt incurred by SAA from apartheid. Dudu Myeni was still a thriving business woman in KwaZulu at the time. Upon the arrival of Coleman Andrews, his first demand was a double payment structure, in that he would be paid close to R20 million a year including bonuses given the profitability of SAA.
3. Saki Macozoma then gifted Coleman Andrews shares in SAA without the knowledge of the cabinet, which followed Saki Macozoma buying with taxpayers’ money a mansion in Bryanston for Andrews in full receipt of a salary. What followed was the appointment of Bain and McKinsey as a consultant in which nine months into office recommended the sale of an SAA fleet aircraft in what was known as a “15-year turnaround strategy". This is despite National Treasury having a turnaround strategy outlined by the then government.
4. Andrews pocketed R232 million during his two and half stay at SAA, yet failed to disclose during appointment that he was the founding member of Bain together with the wife. SAA is paying for offices in Miami with offices operating in Florida, yet SAA does not fly there. All these are paid for by SAA and taxpayers money.
5. The evergreen contracts, meaning that every time they lapse they are automatically renewed with Swissport for ground handling and airport cargo services including the unacceptably high fuel costs are the ones milking SAA dry. Monopoly of Bidvest which Pravin Gordhan has shares in dominate supply of food, toilet cleaning services and cleaning equipment. All this is documented into the three forensic reports on maladministration that Dudu Myeni instituted at SAA.
6. SAA is leasing flights internationally, with a spend of over R3,5 billion of its budget on international currency which is expensive as opposed to procurement locally. The pilot evergreen contract costs and procurement are the two biggest factors in SAA financial woes. The national carrier's R24 billion budget largely benefits white monopoly capital with black business only accounting 1,7% of the R24 billion budget.
7. The tenders for ticket sales are not advertised instead white companies get the nod. This is the case with Christo Wiese who owns Shoprite Holdings, thus the monopoly of Mango and Fly SA Fair tickets at Shoprite Computicket. The deal was secured through Edcon and SAA, which Edcon Wiese is a board member of. Mango is an SAA low cost airline service. Nico Bezuidenhout, the man who was fired at SAA for faking qualifications; a BCom degree and falsifying an MBA, is also an alleged cousin to Christo Wiese. Christo Wiese is a very well-known wealthy member of the Stellenbosch mafia. Christo Wiese is currently the CEO of Mango Airlines grossing over R3,5 million - R5 million a year with only a matric certificate.
8. An untransformed pilot space, lack of employment equity. Of the 225 senior captains at SAA: 217 are white males, 4 black males and 4 white females. Of the 116 Captains: 108 are white males, 3 black males, 2 coloured males,1 Indian male, 1 white female and 1 Indian female. Of the 288 senior first officers: 187 are white males, 22 black males, 21 Indian males,16 coloured males, 38 white females, 2 Indian females and 2 Coloured females. Of 21 Pilot managers: 14 are white males, 5 black males, 1 coloured male, 1 Indian male, 3 white females and 2 black females.
9. The SAA cadet schools which specialise in training young and up coming pilots as per developmental mandate of SAA have been closed mainly after white males with Solidarity protested the progressive plan to minimize their numbers to favour the country's demographics which are predominantly African. White pilots at SAA studied for free to be pilots developed by SAA finances but cry foul when black men and women are favored by the same prospect. The program has now stopped completely. As a result, the forensic report by Ernst and Young 2015 found that 20 years after democracy, SAA pilots are 80% largely white and 91% male.
• Courts, Media, Opposition parties, NGOs, Politicians against Dudu Myeni
Dudu Myeni still faces the most abrasive attacks from sections of the judiciary, the captured South African media, and leaders of opposition parties have equally insulted her to hell and back; the Democratic Alliance which has Republican funders like the proven George Soros, and who of course can forget EFF leader Julius Malema distatefully reducing her transformation agenda at the national airline to her being "Dudu Myeni Zuma"? These derogatory remarks border on vile macho verbal abuse, worse when it is lies choreographed to give an impression that problems at the national carrier began and will end with Dudu Myeni.
Coleman Andrews deliberately ignored, the black woman the sacrificial lamb. Why would opposition parties be opposed to an SAA in which Dudu Myeni envisioned that 30% of their spending benefit local economy? Just who's interests was DA together with the EFF serving in their call to halt Dudu Myeni's progressive transformation agenda, which ended up opening the floodgates for privatization of the national airline? Something the board which she led was very against.
It would seem that Dudu Myeni led the board alone when Mr Anthony Dixon, Dr John Tambi, Nico Bezuidenhout and Wolf Meyer (CEO and CFO which are the executive), and Yakhe Kwinana, all members of the board of directors at SAA, agreed on the turn around strategy including the recommendations of the Ernst and Young report of 2015. The media deliberately omits the fact that a Board Chairperson carries no operational executive duties, in that it can decide on a strategy but the executive should carry it out. Failure for Nico Bezuidenhout and Wolf Meyer to carry out adjustment programs to save costs to the airline cannot be apportioned to a sole individual.
On record Dudu Myeni is the only SAA board Chairperson who launched three forensic reports into maladministration of the airline. The SAA Pilots Association is largely a white association which stood to lose benefits in the perks of pilots which the Ernst and Young of 2015 report found bizarre. How can taxpayers pay for SAA pilots when they are not working for SAA? How can SAA pilots, after three divorces and the like, the mistresses and ex wives still receive benefits? How can maintaining pilots cost taxpayers R1.8 billion? Why close the aviation development program to train new entrants who are previously disadvantaged into aviation after many white pilots from apartheid and post 1994 continued to benefit from taxpayers money in becoming the senior pilots they are today?
How can a R24 billion budget of SAA only give R252 million to local companies from South Africa yet pay huge amounts in currencies we do not afford? To understand the Airbus and Emirates saga that Dudu Myeni and the board correctly resolved one must know who gets the largest business at SAA. The Airbus deal to lease aircraft was said to be very expensive by the board of SAA.
Recommendations were sent to the then Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene to look into the possibility of granting an African Air Leasing Company the deal to lease aircraft so as to minimize costs. Nene was removed, Pravin Gordhan came in and echoed in the affirmative for the board to consider the prospect of an African Air Leasing Company; in a nutshell they were given the go ahead to find one consistent with cost minimization efforts by the board. The fracas created around the Airbus deal is private sector business bullying the SOE using its conduits in Treasury in which Pravin Gordhan in this case was chief among. Likewise with the Emirates MoU, Emirates owes the South African government, after they have been to back and forth court battles for Emirates failing to stick to their word.
During the 2010 FIFA World Cup, they were given fourth frequency to fly to Johannesburg but this would only be until the duration of the World Cup, after that they are back to 3 flights. Fly Emirates reneged on this, flew Nico Bezuidenhout to Dubai to try sweet talk him into the deal, this is when Dudu Myeni made the revolutionary decision of not even attending the meeting so that the Arab cheats do not loot our airline using Pravin's business proxies. The media went crazy accusing Dudu Myeni of costing the airline billions and a breakdown in relations. How are you corrupt when you stop an illegal deal which would see money leaving South Africa to Dubai, worse when the company has a debt with national government? Which country in the world can proclaim sovereignty without controlling who comes in their air and who goes out? Is this not a matter of security more than it is business? Our skies belong to us. This is how the most successful African airline, which is state owned; Ethiopian Airlines does business.
Comair, manages and owns British Airways thereby Kulula its subsidiary. These entities since the departure of Dudu Myeni have been the most beneficiaries. SAA is cutting routes, but international airline companies are taking over domestic routes. It's like going to US and taking over flights California to New York, or going to Russia taking over routes from Moscow to Saint Petersburg. Durban, Port Elizabeth, East London all have their routes cut, whilst Comair through British Airways and Kulula take over these. This policy is called open air in aviation business circles. A very backward business model for national sovereignty.
• A litmus test for South African radical black feminism
It is no doubt that the George Soros, Martin Kingston and Magda Wierzycka (richest woman in South Africa) funded NGOs in OUTA, Save South Africa, Section 27, Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, working together with Afri-Forum and their appendages in national government. Tito Mboweni, Trevor Manuel, Pravin Gordhan and Cyril Ramaphosa are a classic symbolic expression of white monopoly capital interests. This is also evident with the measure with which they are willing to go far court to defend the release of SAA financials. Meaning they must be sealed so that South Africans do not really see who is taking money from SAA. Just like Eskom we are paying for IPPs we do not know who the owners are, in SAA we are paying Swissport for evergreen contracts which have not benefited the majority.
What is not said though is the grotesque violence with which her as a black professional business woman has been treated by the racist media. They pay leading figures in the social circles like Redi Tlhabi to demonize her and call her all sorts of names whilst ignoring facts. These women, together with the likes of Nomboniso Gasa, the UCT lecturer who also scolded and attacked young black African females like Wanelisa Xaba calling for transformation of UCT at the height of Rhodes Must Fall, are deliberate in their attacks. These unwarranted attacks are not defended anywhere. ANC Women's League, The Young Women's Desk, progressive business forums led by women, and all those who understand that real patriarchy is ownership of the means of production.
Real patriarchy in South Africa can only be accrued to one class; the dominant ruling elite. Dominant from owning the roll-on we put on, the lotion, the comb, toothbrush, to the food, cosmetics, cars we drive, banks we bank, and the land with which we derive our existence from. The ruling party in South Africa is not the ruling elite. The ruling elite bought a President of the ruling party with R1 billion to safeguard their interests on total ownership of land and economy. Any definition of patriarchy which obscures us from this reality is a misnomer. The transformation agenda led by Dudu Myeni at SAA was an anti-thesis to the racist capitalist patriarchal matrix governing South Africa at a domestic level. Businesses like Bidvest, their owners and shareholders also have a foot in media ownership. This is how real patriarchy, which is racist capitalism, the only power in SA that dominates even at the JSE. Companies are white, male and imperialist.
What is also baffling is how there is utter silence from the black feminism circles in South Africa about Magda Wierzycka even though she came out clear giving away money to help remove an elected President, her corruption is unreported. How she tried to extort money from AEEI in fraudulently buying AEEI shares at Sygnia at a reduced amount.
Is black feminism in South Afrika not centered around equality? Where is the equality in capital institutions punishing and branding black women who are fighting for justice as incompetent, delinquent, with endless court cases in white courts, by white NGOs, with white lawyers in front of white judges? The matter to declare Dudu Myeni by OUTA a delinquent director for life just shows how much black people in South Africa are still oppressed. They must consider white sensibilities even on questions that do not need white indulgence. The political forces after Dudu Myeni are the same ones after Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane.
• Way Forward
The democratic forces in South Africa today need to organize themselves into a class for themselves to dislodge the neoliberal administration of Cyril Ramaphosa premised on market fundamentalism. Privatization of SOEs, highest inequality rate, highest unemployment rate, an economy struck by recession twice, closing of jobs. The historical forces of national liberation struggle need to up the ante or face the little gains made from the 1994 breakthrough.
Whilst white monopoly continues to confuse, bribe, pay, and bulldoze, Dudu Myeni and Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane continue to be a litmus test for radical black feminism in South Africa. They need the support of all progressive democratic forces inside the country.