A Denel G-6 howitzer tank. Picture: BUSINESS DAY
A Denel G-6 howitzer tank. Picture: BUSINESS DAY

State-owned arms manufacturer Denel has defended the appointment of Daniel du Toit as the company’s group CEO, following criticism for appointing a white male to the position.

Denel, which recorded a loss of nearly R2bn in the past financial year, appointed Du Toit, a former MD at Saab Medav Technologies in Germany, in December.

He replaced Zwelakhe Ntshepe, who resigned in May just six months after getting the top job.

Ntshepe left a month after reports that Denel had given former North West premier Supra Mahumapelo’s son a R1.1m bursary to become a pilot. The scholarships for Oarabile Mahumapelo and two others have since been terminated.

Denel was one of the state-owned enterprises mired in allegations of corruption and state capture and found itself in a deep financial crisis which led to it needing a government guarantee to enable it to pay salaries and suppliers.

Denel said on Monday Du Toit was appointed after a thorough, transparent and rigorous recruitment process which searched internally and externally for the most suitable candidate.

It said Du Toit emerged as the top candidate, which the board recommended to the minister of public enterprises Pravin Gordhan and which was subsequently approved by the cabinet.

It said the board’s urgent priority was to return Denel to profitability and operational sustainability and that Du Toit would be part of a broader diverse team, representative of the country’s demographics.

“The decision to appoint Mr Du Toit was made with our eyes open to the racial and gender imbalances in our country and in the knowledge that we are accountable to the country on the decisions we make as a board,” Denel board chair Monhla Hlahla said.

“For Denel, transformation of our workforce profile is a non-negotiable legislative imperative that is implemented in a responsible manner across the group.”

The company said it had made measurable progress in transforming what was a previously white-dominated company. Today black employees made up 61% of the workforce, while women represented 27%, it said.

During his five-year tenure at Denel, Du Toit is expected, among other things, to build on the turnaround strategy introduced by the board last year.

“The new group CEO is tasked with streamlining the executive team and appointing a diverse team with the right skills set to take the company forward,” Hlahla said.

quintalg@businesslive.co.za