A mechanic works on an Oryx helicopter engine in a workshop hangar on the Denel Aviation site in Boksburg, Johannesburg. Picture: KEVIN SUTHERLAND
A mechanic works on an Oryx helicopter engine in a workshop hangar on the Denel Aviation site in Boksburg, Johannesburg. Picture: KEVIN SUTHERLAND

It comes as no surprise that Denel is financially bust and unable to meet its salary bill for June (“Skint Denel not able to pay full salaries for June”, June 25).

It was evident back in 1994 that Denel was not then and never could be financially viable. Tens of billions of taxpayers’ rand have been poured down this drain during the past 25 years, diverting public resources away from priorities such as education and health. 

On what rational basis does the government justify extending its irrevocable and unconditional guarantee of R3.4bn until 2023? The Americans subsidise their arms exports to the tune of 65%, so any idea that Denel can profitably export weapons to kill foreigners is economically absurd as well as morally grotesque.  

Further highlighting the corruption associated with the arms industry, Denel was targeted by the Guptas as a key element in the state capture saga.

The explosion in September 2018 that killed eight workers at Rheinmetall-Denel Munition (RDM) in Somerset West — 51% owned by Rheinmetall in Germany and 49% by Denel — confirms yet again that it is totally untenable to locate an ammunition plant in a residential area. 

Rheinmetall deliberately sites its factories in countries such as SA to bypass German arms export regulations. It exports 85% of its SA production to countries such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE to commit war crimes in Yemen.

I attended the Rheinmetall annual general meeting in Berlin in May and as a “critical shareholder” with one proxy share, raised the issues of worker safety, environmental contamination in Somerset West and Rheinmetall’s repeated flouting of international law (including the UN arms embargo against apartheid SA). In reply, CEO Armin Papperger evaded the financial costs of environmental clean-up and legal issues. He responded that RDM intends to rebuild that factory but that it will be fully automated.    

Even job creation is no longer an excuse to risk the lives of South Africans in the enormously corrupt armaments industry. If President Cyril Ramaphosa is serious about dealing with corruption, closure of all Denel operations should be an urgent priority including revocation of those guarantees.   

Let the bondholders suffer the financial and reputational consequences of their collusion with Saudi, British and US war crimes in Yemen. 

Denel is unfixable.

Terry Crawford-Browne
World Beyond War SA