AMD chair resigns

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Nombasa Ndhlovu, the Chairperson of the South African Aerospace, Maritime and Defence Industries Association (AMD) has resigned her position, after two years on the job.

In a letter to the AMD Board, Ndhlovu explained her resignation as the Chairperson of AMD: “As discussed on our last Board meeting, I need to attend to personal legal issues that I would not want these issues to bring the association’s name into disrepute. Again, thank you for believing in me and your support.”

Ndhlovu was elected as the Chairperson of AMD in June 2022 after serving as Chairperson of the AMD NCACC Task Team since 2020. There she was instrumental in working with the Directorate Conventional Arms Control (DCAC) and NCACC in unlocking Category A & B exports to the Middle East. (Category A comprises sensitive controlled items such as combat aircraft, explosives, tanks etc. while Category B comprises handheld and portable assault weapons with a calibre under 12.7 mm).

Ndhlovu is the Chief Executive Officer of Umkhombe Marine, and made headlines when she was arrested in October 2020 and released on R80 000 bail for fraud, involving approximately R100 million.

“A tender was awarded by the SANDF [South African National Defence Force] to Umkhombe Marine Pty Ltd (the legal entity belonging to Mrs Ndhlovu) to transport SANDF equipment back to SA from African countries. The contract value was approximately R24 million,” National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) spokesperson Sipho Ngwena said at the time.

Ndhlovu apparently provided false information or documents as part of the tender process, and according to Ngwema thereafter was awarded another contract of R104 million, again to transport SANDF equipment. “But the soldiers were recalled from service [in Sudan] and this led to the cancellation of the second contract.”

Ndhlovu then claimed R30 million expenses from the SANDF, Times Live reported, saying this was what the costs were before the cancellation. “Documents which appear to be false were provided to show the expenses,” Ngwema said.

In 2016, in place of the cancelled contract, Ndhlovu received a transport contract for the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), valued at R79 million.

Ndhlovu’s husband, Major General Noel Ndhlovu, apparently rubber-stamped the mission contracts as he was on the SANDF’s Joint Operations committee. After his wife’s arrest, Noel was placed on special leave and is understood to remain suspended.

The case against Ndhlovu stalled for two years due in part to the Covid-19 pandemic and changes to counsel, but most delays were due to representations by Ndhlovu to the NPA. Speaking to defenceWeb, Ndhlovu said it has taken three years of fighting to get the NPA to hear her side of the story.

She has been waiting for responses from the NPA on her representations, particularly on the fact that she was arrested by Military Police when she was a civilian, and the case is now scheduled to proceed at the end of January.

“I have been put up as a sacrificial lamb,” she said, adding that she is confident investigations on a bigger scale will clarify matters.