The board of Armscor has asked CEO Sipho Thomo to resign.
Board chairman Popo Molefe told the National Assembly’s Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans this morning that they had last week asked Thomo to resign and gave him three days to mull the matter.
“We have asked him to resign …He should have come back to me on Saturday. By Monday he has not done so,” Molefe told MPs.
“We now have to look at which options are open to us.”
Thomo told reporters that he had no plans to do so. “I’m not planning to resign. I have no reason to resign,” he said.
Thomo last month told the committee the cost of the acquisition of eight Airbus Military A400M Loadmaster aircraft had escalated from R17 billion to R47 billion, triggering a political and media fire storm that resulted in the contract being cancelled last week.
Defence minister Lindiwe Sisulu at the time slammed Thomo for releasing the information, saying it “should never have been made public, given very delicate negotiations” then said to be underway with Airbus.
She added that the government had been embarrassed, its bargaining leverage with Airbus Military had been compromised and good diplomatic relations with the European countries involved in the deal had been put at risk.
“It’s a highly embarrassing matter for me as a minister because that’s not how we would have wanted our negotiations conducted… it involves our credibility internationally.”
Asked by journalists whether Thomo’s head would roll, Sisulu said: “Can I leave that to your own judgement? The government has been put in a very embarrassing situation.”
Thomo afterwards acknowledged to the Independent newspaper group that he was “in hot water”.
The Democratic Alliance (DA) this afternoon said it supported the call for Thomo to go.
“Should … Thomo not take the opportunity to resign, then … Molefe … must step in and take action to terminate his contract,” shadow defence minister David Maynier said.
Maynier adds Molefe told MPs Thomo’s leadership and management style was “taking us all down” at Armscor.
The DA MP says Thomo’s “tenure as head of the acquisition agency has been a disaster and has caused a protracted ‘civil war’ within Armscor.
“Thomo was required to undergo counselling for his management style as well as a disciplinary hearing in relation to a sexual harrassment case which cost the taxpayer more than R1.8 million to resolve.
“He also caused a virtual ‘revolt’ by senior managers who accused him of creating a ‘general atmosphere of intimidation and victimisation’.
“It is imperative that … Molefe … now act decisively to stop the bleeding and stabilise Armscor,” Mayier said.
Pic: The Armscor building, Pretoria