At the beginning of December 2015, then acting chief procurement officer (CPO) at SAA Dr Masimba Dahwa was put on special leave. When queried by the media on the reason for this drastic decision, he referred queries to his lawyers.
Based on email exchanges that form part of the #SAAEmails exposé provided by NGO Forensics for Justice, Dahwa was allegedly pushed out of the way for turning up the heat on chairperson Dudu Myeni and her fellow board members.
The tone of an email Dahwa wrote a month before he was suspended suggests he took exception to board members and certain executive managers operating as if they were above the law.
The email was addressed to Yakhe Kwinana, chairperson of the audit and risk committee; Thuli Mpshe, then acting CEO; Wolf Meyer, then CFO; and Myeni, and he did not mince his words.
“Dear Dr Masimba. I did not ask for the risks, I asked for the implementation of board resolutions. please let me know if you will not implement the resolutions of the board,” Kwinana responded.
This thinly veiled threat against the chief procurement officer of the state entity, a crucial position in a company involved in multibillion-rand procurement deals, was an apparent obfuscation to dodge answering pointed questions from Dahwa.
“The CPO [chief procurement officer]’s fiduciary duty is to ensure that SAA’s procurement practices are compliant with its own SCM [supply-chain management] policies, as well as the public procurement laws and regulations. As a board, we need to ensure that all decisions taken by SAA are beyond reproach,” he reminded the recipients of his email.
The source of their conflict was the board’s alleged decision to allocate “15% set aside to ‘Quintessential Business Consulting’ represented by Peter Tshisevhe”.
Tshisevhe, now a board member and formerly legal adviser on the SAA database, was allegedely delegated by Kwinana to handle the transaction after Kwinana revealed in one email she would purchase a “holding company”.
Dahwa diligently reminded the circle of people he had emailed that the decision to allocate the entire 15% to Quintessential Business Consulting was “not part of a board resolution”.
The response to this particular concern was another convoluted attempt to evade accountability – he was told “the board allocated the 15% to all BEE companies”, but because SAA and/or Engen cannot sign an agreement with all of them, Quintessential Consulting represents them.
Dahwa also questioned the decision to appoint Swissport’s BEE partner, Jamicron (Pty) Ltd. The board had settled on Jamicron (Pty) Ltd allegedly without any board resolution. He also challenged the chairperson for not following a “proper procurement process”.
Dahwa was told “a decision to extend Swissport contract, considering that they have brought a BEE [partner]”, was taken. He was also berated for missing board meetings, including the ‘Jet Fuel supplier engagement’.
“It is sad that, despite Swissport agreeing to empower Black companies, SAA managers still continue to resist the board progressive decisions. In fact Chairperson, non-implementation of board resolutions amounts to insubordination,” Dahwa was told.
Dahwa also queried the board on the “resolution that SAA should endeavour to sign the contract with the BEE SMME directly to assist the SMME to raise any required funding”, and pointed out it was “unrealistic”.
The response was: “A decision was made … that these BEE companies must sign directly with SAA to avoid bullism [sic] of BEE companies by the big companies as it is happening with these engagements. We must endeavour not to change board decisions…”
Dahwa also sought to remove himself from the probable fallout by reminding the board it had “approved a term of contract [Swissport] to start on 1 March 2015 [instead of 31 July 2012 for a contract awarded on 1 July 2013]”, saying this predating of the contract “gives rise to a procurement irregularity for which the CPO will be held liable”.
The respondent pulled rank on Dahwa and instructed that “the CPO, in liaison with GM: Legal, Risk and Compliance, provide the board with a detailed report regarding the practical implementation of the Swissport contract”.
Finally, Dahwa emphasised: “As a Board, we have fiduciary responsibility to uphold and promote good corporate governance. The Board cannot be seen to become operationally involved and give instructions that expose the airline to non-compliance and its own policies, PFMA regulations and good governance.”
The answer is revealing in more ways than one: Dahwa was referred to “direct guidance from Shareholder [at the time SAA had already been moved from DPE to Treasury], as well as DOT” and implentation of the “Resolutions of the President in his State of the Nation Address of 2015″.
Tshisevhe, writing in response to The Citizen, said: ” I didn’t receive any instruction from Yakhe either verbally or in writing to represent SAA or [his client] Quintessential as I had already accepted a mandate to represent Quintessential [as per an email he sent to The Citizen].”
He added that: “My client Quintessential was never appointed on the deal by SAA.
“I cannot comment about SAA internal deliberations as I wasn’t privy to those discussions as an outsider and have no control over what people stated about me. ”
Myeni was asked for comment this week but did not respond.