Pioneering women celebrated at Denel through pictures, words

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The contribution of women to the growth of Denel and their role in South Africa’s hi-tech defence industry are being celebrated through a distinctive photographic exhibition during August.

Denel’s facilities at its campuses across SA have been turned into “art galleries”, with photographs of female staff members adorning the shop floors and office corridors.

“We are showcasing the talented women within the Denel Group and highlighting their achievements in an industry that is often perceived to be male-dominated,” says Vuyelwa Qinga, Group head of Corporate Communications.

“Over the past 21 years, Denel has made great strides to appoint and retain female employees in positions across the group,” says Qinga. The exhibition honours women working at all levels in Denel, from support staff to administrative personnel to a new generation of professional engineers, artisans and administrators that have joined the group in recent years.

“We are honouring the many women who have been with Denel since before the democratic transition in 1994, as well as those who now occupy positions of power that no women would have dared to even dream about in years gone by,” says Qinga.

Women now comprise almost a quarter of employees at Denel, and 16.5% of the group’s executives and managers are female. The group has policies in place to ensure women-owned SMEs are allocated more work packages within Denel’s supply chain.

Each of the divisions within Denel nominated women to represent their colleagues within the broader workforce. Their photographs and accompanying quotes were unveiled at Women’s Month celebrations and are now being displayed in visible areas at the campuses.

Qinga says the campaign demonstrates Denel’s commitment to transformation and skills development and its intentions to attract more women and young people with critical and scarce skills to the defence industry.

Martha Phanyane is a fitter and turner at Denel PMP, who joined the ammunitions manufacturer as an apprentice in 2010. “I have been given great opportunities to get experience and improve my skills. I call on other women to take up the opportunities presented by Denel,” she says.

The chief project manager for unmanned aerial vehicle systems, Chumile Simelane, says the combination of top quality technology and people make Denel Dynamics a stimulating work environment. “It is an honour to be making great strides in a male-dominated industry.”

Heilet van der Berg, an aircraft mechanic at Denel Aviation, says there have been noticeable changes at the company since she joined in 2009. “My journey at Denel has been a great one,” she says. “It has helped me to realise my capabilities and enabled me to achieve.”



Mirriam Ramatso joined Denel Land Systems in 1988 as a machine operator. The company gave her the opportunity to qualify as an artisan and she currently serves as production supervisor. “I like working at Denel,” she says. “It has helped me to grow as a person and in my career.”