The armoured personnel carrier (APC) in the compound of the Gupta residence in Saxonwold has been identified as a version of the Griffin manufactured by Scipio Technologies, in which the family has a stake.
According to a report by Erika Gibson in Rapport, the Gupta family’s attorney Gert van der Merwe said the armoured vehicle belonged to the family and was being used for ‘safety purposes’.
He said the protests that took place outside the Gupta house in Saxonwold proved there is a possible security threat to his clients. On 8 April the family halted an urgent application in the Pretoria High Court to ban further protests outside the compound as the situation was not considered urgent since it was quiet outside the estate on Saturday. Some 800 people protested on Friday, many alleging state capture by the Gupta family.
The vehicle, seen parked inside the compound earlier this month, appears to have been taken away on a flatbed truck on Sunday night, according to photos that appeared on Twitter.
The vehicle is apparently a prototype or variant of the Scipio Technologies Griffin armoured personnel carrier which was displayed at the IDEX defence show in Abu Dhabi in February this year. Rapport said the company was represented by a Gupta brother and the CEO of VR Laser, Pieter van der Merwe.
According to Rapport, Scipio is registered in the name of Sashank Singhala, son of Rajesh Gupta, and the company’s address is the Gupta’s residential address.
Opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow defence minister Kobus Marais on Sunday said the DA will write to the Chairperson of the National Conventional Arms Control Committee (NCACC), Minister Jeff Radebe, to seek confirmation on whether or not the Gupta family have permission to own the armoured military vehicle.
“It is illegal for ordinary citizens to own military technology and it is therefore deeply concerning that this armoured vehicle is currently stationed at a private residence,” Marais said. “The Gupta family lawyer, Gert van der Merwe, has confirmed that the armoured vehicle does indeed belong to the Gupta’s.
“Should Minister Radebe confirm that the Gupta’s do not have permission to own this vehicle, he must make public the actions that will be taken to ensure that the Gupta’s are held to account,” Marais concluded.
According to Scipio Technologies’ website, the Griffin is locally designed in South Africa with “outstanding” mine and ballistic protection. It can accommodate two in the front and nine passengers in the rear. It can be configured as an armoured personnel carrier, wheeled combat vehicle, ambulance, command vehicle, water tanker or diesel tanker.
“The Gupta thinking on this is odd, what are they planning to do with the armoured vehicle? Transport the family through protestors?” asks military expert Darren Olivier at African Defence Review. “There is no justification for using the armoured mine-resistant vehicle that couldn’t have been better fulfilled by an armoured sedan.”
“It’s apparently illegal for a civilian company to own or use an armoured vehicle that has not been formally demilitarised,” Olivier adds.
The vehicle apparently has a full B7 armour rating, and uses ‘shallow V technology’ that can withstand 14 kg of TNT under the hull and 21 kg of TNT under a wheel. Payload is 6 750 kg and the vehicle has six firing ports.
Length of the 23 000 kg vehicle is 6.4 metres, width 2.7 metres and height 3 metres. It is powered by a Mercedes-Benz engine delivering 350 kW and giving a maximum speed of 110 km/h and a range of 1 000 km.
“Scipio aims at developing innovative solutions for the defence (land, sea and air), internal or homeland security, peacekeeping and cash in transit vehicles. Scipio aims at connecting all of these solutions through leading edge development, continuous innovation, global experience and its can do attitude to deliver the best outcomes to our customers,” the company states.
When displaying the vehicle at IDEX, Scipio partnered with the UAE’s International Golden Group (IGG). The vehicle displayed there featured a weapon turret on the roof.
The legality of the Gupta’s owning an APC is being questioned, as military vehicles are not allowed to be used by civilians unless they fall into certain categories and/or have had any offensive capability removed.