SAA Technical chair 'wanted R100m kickback', Zondo commission hears

Chief justice Raymond Zondo.
Chief justice Raymond Zondo.
Image: Gallo Images / Sowetan / Thulani Mbele

The Zondo commission of inquiry on Wednesday heard how former SAA Technical board chairperson Yakhe Kwinana allegedly wanted a R100m kickback from a US company to influence a tender process in its favour.

This was revealed by Sibongile Sambo, founding member and director of SRS Aviation, a local company which was a BEE partner to AAR, the US company that placed a bid to provide aircraft components to SAA.

According to Sambo, Kwinana had revealed her intentions to demand the R100m kickback from ARR during a meeting at the Protea Hotel in Midrand in 2015.

Sambo told the Zondo commission that this was the second time she had a meeting with Kwinana.

She said the first meeting had taken place at Sambo's place, where Kwinana had told her that she was planning to resign from SAA and that she planned to “lay her hands on components, logistics and tyres” contracts that SAA had.

Sambo said both meetings were requested by Kwinana.

At the second meeting in Midrand, Kwinana brought along another SAAT board member, whom she allegedly said would look after her interests once she had departed the airline.

Also, Sambo claimed, Kwinana mentioned that she had a “runner” by the name of Kuki Mdlulwa, who would facilitate the payment of the alleged kickback.

Furthermore, Sambo was allegedly told that she would not get a cent from the kickback but that other people who were meant to benefit were then SAA CEO Musa Zwane and head of procurement at SAAT Nontsasa Memela.

She recalled the Midrand meeting where she alleges: “Ms Kwinana gave me a call asking to meet and she suggested Protea Hotel in Midrand which I agreed to. I found her with Dr Tumby – one of the board members at SAAT.

“She said that as she was planning to exit, Mr Tumby would take care of her interests when she was gone and by that, she meant the contracts she mentioned she wanted her hands on.

“She also introduced Ms Kuki Mdlulwa as ihashi (runner). She said a runner is a go-between person in making deals for her. She indicated, as part of her interest in the components tender, she wanted Ms Mdlulwa to negotiate on her behalf with AAR that she will make sure AAR got the tender but they will have to pay them R100m.”

Kwinana has disputed Sambo's evidence through the submission of an affidavit, which was read for the record by evidence leader advocate Mike Mbikiwa.

According to Kwinana, it was in fact Sambo who wanted a R100m kickback from the US company and sought her assistance, which was not forthcoming.

“I do not understand why I would tell Ms Sambo that I want to resign and lay my hands on tenders, as I would not be destitute when I resign because I was operating in an audit firm which I started in 1999, and I was sitting on other boards that had nothing to do with SAA,” reads Kwinana's affidavit.

“Ms Sambo called me and said she would like to meet and greet and introduce herself to me as she is doing work for SAAT, and I decided to go with Dr Tumby who was also a board member at SAAT.

“The meeting was held at Protea Hotel which was a convenient place, and at the meeting she introduced her company as the only female black-owned company in aviation which owns a fleet of aircraft that she leases out.

“In the meeting I learnt that she in fact had a problem with her partner AAR and she asked me to intervene. She told us that she had been a runner for AAR since 2011 without any form of remuneration and now they owed her R100m, and we advised her that SAA cannot intervene in their business as it is between them and has nothing to do with SAAT.”

Sambo disputed Kwinana's version, saying it was all lies cooked up to deflect attention.

She challenged her to produce proof, saying the affidavit was a joke in that Kwinana states that she owned aircraft when she never did.  

Sambo's testimony continues. 


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