Former South African Airways (SAA) non-executive director Yakhe Kwinana has denied an allegation that she wanted to “get [her] hands” on contracts at SAA Technical (SAAT) and that at a private meeting she had spoken about her “runner” who would ask for R100 million from an American-based aviation services provider for the latter entity to score a contract at SAAT.
The allegation was made by the founding member of SRS Aviation, Sibongile Rejoice Sambo, who is said to be privy to corrupt plans by some SAAT officials with regards to the contract.
Sambo told the chairperson of the commission, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, that in 2015 before a SAAT delegation visited American-based AAR Corporation, she received a called from the head of procurement at SAAT at the time, Nontsasa Memela, who informed her that Kwinana wanted to meet with her.
The commission heard that Sambo approached AAR to partner or work with the company in the aviation industry, in particular in the South African and African markets.
At the time Sambo received a call from Memela, her company SRS Aviation was jointly bidding with AAR for a contract at SAAT to supply aircraft components, the commission heard.
The first meeting between Sambo and Kwinana was allegedly at the former’s place of residence, where the latter indicated that she planned to resign as SAAT board chair and thereafter “get [her] hands on” contracts at SAA, the commission heard.
Sambo said Kwinana was keen to know more about her relationship with AAR and wanted to be introduced to Cheryle Jackson, who was at the time Sambo’s contact person at AAR.
“I gladly gave her the contact details and they started talking directly,” Sambo said.
She said, however, her first meeting with Kwinana was “very brief” – less than an hour, adding that she did not want to entertain what Kwinana meant by saying she wanted to get her hands on contracts at SAA.
After a week or a couple more, Kwinana allegedly arranged to meet with Sambo at the Protea Hotel in Midrand, the commission heard.
Sambo said the second meeting was attended by herself, Kwinana and at the time SAAT board member Dr John Tambi.
At this meeting, Kwinana allegedly again spoke about her plans to resign from SAAT and that once that materialised her interests at the entity would be looked after by Tambi, the commission heard.
Sambo was then introduced to a Koekie Mdlulwa (spelling unconfirmed), whom she said she did not recall whether she was present at the meeting or had merely been discussed. Mdlulwa was introduced as “ihhashi”, literally meaning horse. Sambo said this could be contextualised that Mdlulwa was Kwinana’s runner or a go-between who facilitated the latter’s business deals.
Sambo said Kwinana said she wanted Mdlulwa to negotiate with AAR on her behalf for a payment of R100 million to make sure the American-based company scored the contract.
“That is what we discussed and I left them being confused. For me it became very clear that a corrupt activity is starting here,” Sambo said.
Zondo asked the witness why she believed Kwinana would talk to her about plans to take part in a corrupt act.
“At that time, for me, I just thought because I have always been the BEE partner for AAR now she wants to be part of AAR,” Sambo said, adding that Kwinana allegedly said the R100 million would be for herself and her people at SAAT.
Sambo told Zondo that Kwinana’s utterances had been confusing that she was left shocked and amazed by the casual mention of R100 million, a figure she alleged was mentioned at another meeting.
In a responding statement submitted to the commission, Kwinana denied the allegation and alleged that Sambo had been the one who arranged the meeting at the hotel.
In her statement, Kwinana alleges that at the meeting Sambo had complained about AAR and wanted her, as SAAT board chair, to intervene.
Kwinana said Sambo’s complaint had been that she, Sambo, had been “ihhashi” for AAR, doing the leg work for the company, and so was owed R100 million.
Kwinana said she and Tambi told Sambo that they could not assist.
However, Sambo denied Kwinana’s claims and said she should provide evidence before the commission.