Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Public Enterprises has entered the fray around the legality or not of Denel’s joint venture with VR Laser in Hong Kong.
At its meeting on Wednesday, the committee decided it wants to know more about the venture, which apparently has connections to the Gupta family. To this end a decision was taken to “request” the ministers of finance (Malusi Gigaba) and public enterprises (Lynne Brown) to be part of a delegation to brief the committee “on circumstances surrounding the establishment of Denel Asia”.
The committee was briefed by Denel chairman Daniel Mantsha and acting chief financial officer Odwa Mhlwana on the status of former chief executive, Riaz Saloojee, and two other senior Denel staffers (chief financial officer Fikile Mhlontlo and group company secretary Elizabeth Africa). All three were suspended ahead of the establishment of Denel Asia in January last year and after the purchase of BAE Systems Land Systems South Africa (LSSA).
Acting committee chair Zukiswa Rantho emphasised the importance of having both ministers present at the next meeting with Denel so “light can be shed on a number of questions”.
Former finance minister Pravin Gordhan, who is now a member of the Public Enterprises Portfolio Committee, is reported as saying the application for approval of the Denel Asia joint venture was received in December 2015 “just ahead of the Christmas break and a response was demanded within 30 days. The timing suggested Denel had been “manipulative”. He said the sacking of senior executives fitted a pattern inherent in state capture of firing people to replace them with others more “compliant”.
Mantsha is reported as saying Saloojee was forced out for incurred debt and repeatedly told the committee Denel was “not captured”. This was in reference to allegations of State Capture which led to the former Public Protector’s investigation.
Rantho also said the committee asked for Denel to supply Denton’s report on the state-owned defence and technology conglomerate and another report on its due diligence. Denton’s is a law firm which previously performed as forensic investigation into Eskom.
No date has yet been given for the committee to meet with the ministers.