When told of ongoing delays in the manufacture and delivery of new infantry combat vehicles for the SA Army, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo used words including “unthinkable”, “unacceptable”, adding it was “simply a disaster”.
The responses from the man at the helm of the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture followed testimony by Sipho Mkwanazi, Armscor acting group executive responsible for acquisition and supply chain management. He was acting chief executive for the State-owned defence and security acquisition agency following the departure of Sipho Thomo in January 2010 and the appointment of Kevin Wakeford, now also no longer at Armscor, in May 2015. He left Armscor, initially on special leave when allegations were made about his involvement with the late Gavin Watson’s Bosasa Group, which changed its name to African Global Operations, in February 2019.
After hearing what can best be called a litany of errors around Project Hoefyster, which would see more than 200 new Badger infantry combat vehicles in a number of variants replace ageing Ratels, Zondo, according to Johannesburg digital daily TimesLIVE, said it was “a disaster, no different to the much-talked about digital migration, about which little is being done”.
“These delays reflect nothing but a disaster. It is completely unacceptable,” Zondo said.
“How can something required and promised to be delivered in 2012, still not be delivered eight years later?
“What has been done over the years? Why is this situation allowed to continue? Has anybody been fired for failing to do their job? Has anything happened? It is just unthinkable,” the publication reports the Deputy Chief Justice saying.
His comments are in line with what Denel chair Monhla Hlahla told Parliament’s Public Enterprises Portfolio Committee last month.
According to her, Hoefyster is the single biggest threat to the continued existence of the State-owned defence and technology group.
“If the parties (Armscor, Denel and Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula’s Department of Defence) do not find a way to resolve the technical issues around the programme, Hoefyster remains the single biggest programme on Denel’s balance sheet or income statement,” she told the Parliamentary oversight committee.
After hearing Mkwanazi’s evidence, Zondo turned his attention to State-owned enterprises (SOEs) in general.
He is reported as saying it is no surprise SOEs are in trouble.
“For this state of affairs, politicians, accounting authorities and management of SOEs over the years must take collective responsibility for their incompetence.
“It is like there is nobody who supervises, whether or not ministers do their job, DGs do their job, heads of SOEs do their job, people under CEOs do their job, and boards of SOEs do their job.
“Leaders are put in leadership positions so they can make decisions and lead. This is now the story of the SOEs, so many of them appear to be in serious trouble, didn’t somebody see a long time ago there was trouble coming and take steps to ensure the SOEs did not get to where they are now?”
The Commission was today due to hear evidence from former Denel chief executive Zwelakhe Ntshepe and Fikile Mhlontlo, former chief financial officer.