Joel Avni

Joel Avni

More than 50 of Armscor's senior managers have signed a confidential document that blasts the autocratic way chief executive Sipho Thomo and his management board run the state armaments company.

"Senior management position paper on issues resulting in the current situation within Armscor", was compiled in November. It claims "there is a general atmosphere of intimidation and victimisation throughout the organisation".

The authors identify a "low level of trust between the management board and senior management", "fear of individuals being victimised and humiliated should they speak openly" and "the current low morale of Armscor employees in general" as key problems and believe the future of the organisation is at stake.

"There has been a gradual change from professional participative management to a hierarchical and dictatorial management model based on fear rather than trust," they claim.

"The example set by the management board has led to a general cultural decay within the organisation and a crisis in morale.

"There is limited evidence of care and respect for others, customer focus, integrity or teamwork while management pays scant attention to leading by example.

"The value of 'results driven' has also been altered to mean 'deliver on time despite the quality'," the paper states.

But the corporation's senior managers reserve their most withering criticism for their boss.

"There is a general concern at the impact of the [chief executive's] management and leadership style. Armscor is a professional organisation where professional integrity and knowledge have been respected and valued in the past. There has been a gradual deviation from this over time, creating a culture of fear, intimidation and victimisation.

"In addition the introduction of a status-based hierarchy where subordinates are expected to do as they are told and not to question decisions or orders has disempowered employees."

The chief executive's "generally surly manner and his repeated failure to extend common courtesy to employees" also riles the senior managers, who say the problems have affected the company's operations.

"A matter of great concern is the apparent poor relationship between the management board and a number of key stakeholders, including the minister, secretary for defence, board of directors, the defence portfolio committee and the [chief executive] of Denel [the state armaments manufacturer].

"The management board's intransigent attitude appears to have a great deal to do with this and has led to Armscor being isolated and marginalised in its environment."

They also say Thomo and his team lack business and technical leadership.

"Even simple issues are often misinterpreted or misrepresented externally or to the board of directors.

"A particular concern is that there is little actual experience of acquisition management - the core business of Armscor - on the management board."

The disillusioned senior managers also blast the top dogs for mishandling operational issues from staff appointments to disregarding delegations.

They say they raised the issues "from a deep loyalty that senior management has for Armscor".

"We conclude that positive and firm actions will turn the situation around. On the contrary, window dressing or denial will result in dire consequences."

The company's senior communications executive Minah Sindane-Bloem yesterday confirmed that the senior managers will meet members of the management board today.

Thomo will give feedback to the company's staff on June 3.

Thomo did not respond to messages left on his phone.