Denel mismanagement saw thoughts of suicide rise among employees


The issues around state capture are by and large expounded in financial loss terms with so-called kingpins and scapegoats named but not necessarily shamed.

A report compiled by trade union Solidarity’s research institute and released this week puts a human complexion onto the impact industrial scale corruption and fraud had – and is still having – on Denel employees.

Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan is on record as saying the State-owned defence and technology conglomerate is a prime example of state capture, better known elsewhere in the world as grand corruption.

The Solidarity Research Institute (SRI) report reveals what this has wrought on people employed at Denel, whether it be in actual production or the many management and support roles needed to keep a manufacturing organisation working and – hopefully – profitable. The report covers the financial and mental state and condition of Solidarity members working or once on the Denel payroll.

SRI research psychologist Nicolien Welthagen maintains the report titled “Denel employee wellbeing” shows employees battling to survive for over two years on short-pay and some months no salary, while what she terms Denel’s “fatal mismanagement” was underway.

“Denel’s situation is catastrophic not only from a financial point of view with the entity as a whole going a through a process of destruction,” she said.

“The financial impact can be calculated, but one will never be able to calculate the emotional and mental impact on employees. Employment, jobs and work provide meaning, security and an opportunity to live a life of purpose. Denel employees were not only deprived of these, but also compensation for work done.”

Her parent organisation, Centurion headquartered trade union Solidarity, in support of the SRI report, notes the recent auctioning of Denel assets – with more on the horizon – was a sad day for the State-owned enterprise (SOE) and its employees.

“Denel’s reputation has been damaged nationally and internationally – possibly forever,” a spokesman said.

“To expect people to work without pay is unacceptable. This not only put the dedication of Denel employees to the test, but was also highlighted by mismanagement,” Welthagen said adding: “The report is heart-wrenching because it deals with real peoples’ lives. They are at ground level real people not millionaires. They cannot think about retirement, let alone luxury cars and holidays”.

Solidarity hopes the report will show the effects of state entity mismanagement beyond the numbers quoted in Parliament and other forums along with memos to personnel from division and operating unit managers saying words to the effect “Sorry, no pay this month but we’re hopeful the situation will improve”.

“As bad as it may be that Denel is in a desperate situation it’s worse when taking into account people who lost homes and vehicles. The report makes it clear some contemplated suicide as a way out,” according to the research psychologist.

The report can be accessed here.