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

During the late 1980s the late Oliver Tambo rightly described Armscor as a “Frankstein monster that cannot be reformed and must be destroyed”.

The Cameron commission of inquiry in 1994/1995 likewise found that Armscor was both incredibly corrupt and managerially incompetent. Armscor’s offspring, Denel, continues to go from one corruption scandal to the next.

In demanding another R2.8bn “fix” from the public (“Denel asks for R2.8bn cash injection from the government”, July 5), Denel claims yet again and without evidence that lucrative export contracts are on the horizon. Just how many times has the government eagerly swallowed that canard, including that the 1999 arms deal offsets would magically transform Denel into a world-ranking arms company and thus stimulate our economy? As predicted, the offsets never materialised and were merely vehicles to pay bribes.

Denel CEO Danie du Toit boasts that the relationship with Rheinmetall, Germany’s largest munitions company, is one of Denel’s success stories. Rheinmetall deliberately locates its production in countries such as SA to bypass German export controls. Not only did Rheinmetall flout the UN arms embargo against apartheid SA, but in June a whistle-blower confirmed that Rheinmetall has been transferring “intellectual property” technology to Denel in violation of Nato and German arms export regulations.

in 2016 Rheinmetall Denel Munitions designed and constructed a $240m ammunition factory in Saudi Arabia that was opened jointly by former president Jacob Zuma and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. During the 1990s former president Nelson Mandela publicly acknowledged that Saudi Arabia was a major donor to the ANC. About half of SA’s arms exports are now to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The consequences include SA’s disgraceful complicity with Saudi/UAE war crimes in Yemen.

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s repeated declarations about dealing with corruption have become tired and shopworn. He was reportedly even planning to sell Denel to Saudi Arabia just weeks before the barbarous murder of Jamal Khashoggi. Just what is Denel’s purpose? As the 1995 defence white paper acknowledged, there is no conceivable foreign military threat to justify pouring billions into an arms industry.

As SA’s financial and ethical reputation becomes increasingly sullied by collusion with Saudi war crimes and bribes, it is past time that the president plus ministers Pravin Gordhan and Tito Mboweni take heed of Tambo’s warnings and urgently put Denel into bankruptcy.

Terry Crawford-Browne
World Beyond War — SA