Suspended Armscor CE Sipho Thomo is to face disciplinary charges after failing to “co-operate” with the parastatal board, which asked him to resign a month ago.
Armscor board chairman Popo Molefe told Independent Newspapers at the weekend that disciplinary charges would be served on Thomo “soon”.
Molefe also says there will be “no golden handshake” unless a court orders Armscor to pay more than the standard severance package.
The board suspended Thomo two weeks ago on full pay, a fortnight after he was first told that the state armaments acquisition agency wanted an “amicable separation” from its chief executive of the past 10 years.
Molefe disclosed this at a meeting of the National Assembly’s Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans, where Thomo arrived late, and said the former chief executive “was taking us all down” at Armscor.
Armscor had been called to appear before the committee to explain, among other things, what had been done about a directive that Thomo receive counselling after a sexual harassment suit that cost taxpayers nearly R1.8 million to resolve – as well as questions about why he had worked for years without a proper contract, Business Report newspaper said this morning.
On the same day, internal Armscor documents were leaked, suggesting that the corporation had been in the grip of low-level warfare over Thomo’s leadership. Penned by a group of senior officials, the document labelled Thomo’s management style as “dictatorial”, evidenced by a “general lack of trust”, lack of respect, lack of business leadership and poor communication.
The leak came shortly after Thomo incurred the wrath of Defence and Military Veterans Minister Lindiwe Sisulu by disclosing to Parliament that the government’s proposed procurement of eight Airbus A400M aircraft had ballooned from R17 billion to R47 billion.
The allegations against Thomo played into a public storm around former Eskom CEO Jacob Maroga, with accusations that a racist agenda against black executives at the helm of state-owned enterprises was playing itself out. Like Maroga, Thomo balked at walking away, saying he had “not done anything wrong”.
He suggested he was being victimised: “It is too much of a coincidence. Look, it was (SAA CEO) Khaya Ngqula, then (Transnet executive) Siyabonga Gama, it’s (Eskom boss Jacob) Maroga, it’s me. I don’t know where this thing is coming from, but it appears as if people are going for us. What is this wrong thing that we’ve done?”
Two weeks ago, Molefe said Thomo’s suspension would allow for “serious allegations” against Thomo to be investigated.
“The suspension will continue pending an investigation of disciplinary charges and the convening of a disciplinary hearing if there is evidence that justifies that,” said Molefe.
This week he said Armscor had been left with no choice but to “press disciplinary charges”.
He would still not expand on the “serious charges”, but cited as an example the incident at Parliament: “He was late by more than one hour. We don’t have the equipment to prove that the man was not sober, but there are those sorts of things,” Molefe said.
He intimated that Thomo had chosen his fate by not acceding to the directive to step down: “We have told him that he has chosen this route and we have accepted the challenge that he has posed. So we will have to do the normal things that are done. Press charges against him.”
There would be no large cheque. “Anything that is golden, the man can only get if (we are) ordered by a court of law. We don’t give golden handshakes,” said Molefe.
He said Armscor was already “far down the line” with a process to relieve Thomo of his duties.
“We really would like everybody to be treated fairly. We will have an internal process based on the policies of the organisation.”
Thomo could not be reached for comment.
Pic: The Armscor building, Pretoria
He hit the headlines earlier this year when Armscor’s annual report showed an 89 percent remuneration increase for him, while the entity had posted a nearly R9 million loss.
Armscor later explained that the package included a once-off restraint of trade payment and bonuses for two years, totalling R1.3 million, in addition to a 14 percent increase that brought his salary to R1.45m a year.