SIU pursuing air school, former Denel employees over pilot bursaries


The Special Investigation Unit (SIU) is pursuing implicated officials at Denel and attempting to recover money from 43 Air School over the improper awarding of bursaries to three student pilots in 2017.

In 2018 it emerged the company had the year prior approved a R1.1 million plus bursary to the son of North West premier, Supra Mahumapelo, for him to become a pilot. Bursaries were also awarded to two others.

In a 3 March presentation to the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) on its investigation into Denel, lead SIU investigator Zodwa Xesibe said it was alleged that certain officials breached Denel’s Study Scheme Benefits Policy or duty of care and/or duty to always act in the best interests of Denel for their irregular awarding of bursaries to three individuals for their studies at an air school for the sums of R801 927, R793 308 and R1 156 378.

Mahumapelo’s bursary was in breach of Denel’s study scheme, which limits funds to R100 000 per student. Mahumapelo was issued with a termination letter after exclusion from 43 Air School in June 2018 by which time Denel had paid R881 000 and out of this R559 000 was credited to his study programme. The balance of R321 000 was credited to Sanele Ndlovu, another bursary holder, without approval from Denel.

“We are currently pursuing the process of recovering R321 000 from 43 Air School. There is already a criminal case with the SAPS and the SIU been sharing notes with investigator,” Xesibe told SCOPA. Although all officials implicated have left Denel, there is a civil claim lodged by Denel against those individuals regarding the unlawful bursary awards.

Another cadet pilot, Sibulela Damane, signed a bursary agreement worth R793 000 with Denel while she was already at 43 Air School in breach of Denel’s Study Scheme Benefits Policy. Damane was issued with a termination letter in November 2017 after her exclusion from 43 Air School after Denel had paid already R641 000. The SIU is in the process of recovering R407 000 from 43 Air School and is attempting to recover R234 000 from Damane. There is a criminal case with the police and the SIU is sharing notes with them.

The third cadet pilot involved in the bursary debacle was Sanele Ndlovu, who was successful in his studies. A bursary agreement was awarded for an Integrated Pilot License Course in May 2017 for R801 000 in breach of Denel’s study scheme policy, the SIU said. Denel paid R510 000 towards this. There was an overpayment of R182 000 and the SIU is looking at recovering this from 43 Air School. There is also a civil claim against implicated officials at Denel.