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Armscor board chairman Popo Molefe says CE Sipho Thomo (pictured) will be given one last chance to resign today. He was scheduled to meet board representatives, but an Armscor spokesperson says Thomo was not at the office today as he had an engagement elsewhere.

The spokesperson continues that Thomo is expected back at his office on Monday. By 1.30pm this afternoon there had been no announcement within Armscor of a meeting or of Thomo’s fate.

Business Report says the putative meeting comes 10 days after he was first told to tender his “resignation within three days”.

Thomo last month told the National Assembly’s portfolio committee on defence 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.

Molefe told the same committee on Wednesday Armscor’s board had decided to “part ways” with Thomo. He separately told the Mail & Guardian newspaper that the decision to axe Thomo was not linked to the A400M matter, but the paper questioned that in an editorial.

Independent Group newspapers yesterday reported Thomo is resisting standing down, saying he has “not done anything wrong”. The move to oust him follows a similar, successful, effort to unseat power utility Eskom’s CE Jacob Maroga.

Maroga last Wednesday told his board he would resign over clashes between him and Eskom chairman Bobby Godsell over the strategic direction of the state-owned electricity monopoly. His resignation was accepted but on Thursday he denied having resigned.

A stand-off followed that saw Godsell branded a racist by the Black Management Forum (BMF) and ANC Youth League (ANCYL), youth wing of the ruling African National Congress. Godsell quit on Monday. Public Enterprises minister Barbara Hogan yesterday confirmed that Maroga had indeed resigned last week and this morning said she wanted Godsell to return to his post.

Thomo seemingly Wednesday bought into the ANCYL and BMF paradigm that there was a racist agenda in place aimed at ousting black CEOs. “It is too much of a coincidence. Look, it was (SAA CEO) Khaya Ngqula, then (Transnet Freight Rail chief executive) Siyabonga Gama, it’s Maroga, it’s me. I don’t know where this thing is coming from but it appears as if people are going for us,” he told the Independent Group.

“What is this wrong thing that we’ve done? I can’t be a victim when I haven’t done anything wrong.”

However, documents in the group’s possession – a memo and open letter to the Armscor board filed last week – are evidence of a barrage of complaints about Thomo’s “dictatorial leadership”, drawn up by “75 percent of senior managers” in the corporation.

The Independent Group papers said the documents cited three years of “frustrating” and unsuccessful attempts to bring such “sensitive” matters to the board’s attention and claim 22 months of “intimidation and victimisation” by Thomo’s management board.

The Senior Managers’ Working Group that wrote the documents described Thomo’s style of management as “a move from a culture of professional respect to one of autocratic demands and disregard of the opinions of subordinates”, as reflected in a “general lack of trust”, lack of respect, concern over slow transformation, lack of business leadership, poor communication and a range of other complaints.

In a covering letter, the conveners of the group accused Thomo of deliberately misinforming the board in September about the process to resolve the impasse and threatened to verbally communicate their grievances to the board. “Nothing has been resolved and in fact on certain issues the situation has worsened”, they wrote on November 2.

In an interview with the group’s reporter Wednesday, Molefe acknowledged the complaints had played a key role when the board met two days later and asked Thomo to tender his resignation.

Business Report separately reported yesterday that Sisulu would not interfere in the standoff although Armscor is an entity reporting to her.

Her spokesman Ndivhuwo Mabaya said the standoff was “a matter between the board and the chief executive”.

Molefe, a former premier of North West Province told the business broadsheet he hoped to convince Thomo to go by this weekend. In terms of the contract with Thomo the board could otherwise remove him within three months.

He also told the paper they were seeking a friendly parting off ways but now expected a fight. “…having listened to him, it is quite clear that he wants to fight. I don’t want to say anything that may prejudice the case in the event that this becomes a serious legal matter.

“We had lots of complaints that he has been conducting himself in a way which was unacceptable to the board. We had a discussion and the intention was to resolve the matter amicably and part ways amicably. That is what we wanted to do.

“We want to act in the best interests of the organisation and the South African public.”