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Khumbudzo Ntshavheni in Zondo's firing line over Denel dismissals

Mawande AmaShabalala Political journalist
Khumbudzo Ntshavheni may find herself among the former Denel board members to be investigated and charged for delinquency.. File picture.
Khumbudzo Ntshavheni may find herself among the former Denel board members to be investigated and charged for delinquency.. File picture.
Image: GCIS

Minister of communications and digital technologies Khumbudzo Ntshavheni may find herself among the former Denel board members to be investigated and charged for delinquency.

This because she was allegedly involved in backing a dubious decision to get rid of top executives of the state-owned arms manufacturer in 2015.

State capture inquiry chairperson, acting chief justice Raymond Zondo, recommended that law-enforcement agencies investigate, with a view of possible prosecution, Denel board members appointed in July 2015. The board was led by former president Jacob Zuma's ex-lawyer Daniel Mantsha.

The 2015 board — in contrast to their predecessors — were slammed for a slew of poor decisions that brought Denel to its knees, according to Zondo. Among those decisions was the removal of group CEO Riaz Saloojee, the group CFO and the company secretary very soon after the board took office.

Ntshavheni was among the board members, and submitted an affidavit to the commission in which she mounted the same reason as Mantsha for the hounding out of the executives.

The executives who were sent packing at the time, at only the board’s second meeting after their appointment, were Saloojee, finance boss Fikile Mhlontlo and company secretary Elizabeth Afrika.

The trio was ambushed by the Denel audit and risk committee (ARC) and asked to state reasons why they should not be suspended. This was done, found Zondo, without any specific reasons stated as to why they should make such representations.

Strangely, particularly in the case of Saloojee, it happened days after the then-minister of public enterprises had showered him with praises while at an exhibition in UK, promising that his stay at Denel would be extended.

At the same exhibition, Mantsha told Saloojee that the audit and risk committee was not pleased with the company’s acquisition of Denel Vehicle Systems (DVS).

A day after arriving back from UK, “without any prior warning”, Saloojee was called by the chair of the ARC to provide reasons why he should not be suspended because of his participation in the DVS transaction.

“No specifics were given to him and the ARC members did not tell him what he was alleged to have done wrong or which aspect of the DVS transaction Saloojee was required to address if he wanted to avoid suspension,” the Zondo report reads.

The same modus operandi was employed with Mhlontlo and Afrika, and after days of back-and-forth letters and wrangling between the ARC and the three executives, they were offered packages if they resigned. This eventually happened.

All three, after months on suspension without disciplinary action, walked away with millions of rand in separation packages.

Zondo was stunned that Ntshavheni, when asked her view on the matter, borrowed from Mantsha’s explanation.

“Her and Mr Mantsha's explanation make absolutely no sense. Minister Ntshavheni, like Mr Mantsha, says that there was strong evidence that the three executives were guilty of serious acts of misconduct and this evidence was already there when the executives were suspended,” wrote Zondo.

The commission chair, however, was not convinced.

“If that was so, the question is: why was that evidence not placed before the three executives in a disciplinary inquiry within a month after they were suspended? If, for some reason, the board could not do that within a month, why could it not do that within the first three months of the suspension of the executives?

“On the evidence heard by the commission, the 2015 board of directors of Denel that was led by Mantsha failed to carry out its fiduciary duties in suspending the three executives ... In this regard it is recommended that law-enforcement agencies should conduct such further investigations as may be necessary, with a view to possible prosecutions of members of the board of directors,” he writes.


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