Member of Parliaments (MPS)’s standing committee on finance has challenged the wisdom and authority of Director General of Finance for extending the tenure of the chairwoman of South African Airways (SAA) Dudu Myeni’s.

Myeni’s tenure as board chair was to have expired in August, but has been extended by the Finance Minister  Malusi Gigaba until SAA’s annual general meeting takes place in early November.

This arouse questions as to whether cabinet approved the extension, and Deputy Finance Minister, Sibusiso Buthelezi conceded that cabinet was not consulted. He said, however, that it was the ministry’s understanding that SAA’s memorandum of incorporation empowered the minister to take a unilateral decision to extend the term of the chairperson.

When the Deputy Finance Minister was asked if the extension of Myeni’s term was at the request of President Jacob Zuma, he said“As to whether anybody gave the minister (Gigaba) a directive to extend Myeni’s term, the answer is a categorically no.”

Parliamentary law advisor, Frank Jenkins disagreed. He said the memorandum of incorporation only allowed the minister to act in this manner when the terms of office of all non-executive members of the board expired at once.

“In the light of that … you cannot just single out the chairperson.”

Buthelezi said National Treasury had not wished to act illegally but added that other lawyers may reach a different conclusion to Jenkins, and the ministry’s did in this instance.

ANC MP, Derek Hanekom reminded Buthelezi that it was standard practice to take decisions such as these to cabinet for approval.

Fellow ANC MP, Thandi Tobias rejected the ministry’s stated motivation for the extension – to ensure continuity up to the AGM – and said it appeared that the committee was not being told the true reason.

“For now, as it stands, it is not the AGM that we can use as an excuse,” she said, before proposing that Jenkins be asked to draw up a formal opinion to give to the treasury.