Trade union Solidarity has asked Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown to urgently suspend Denel’s top officials to prevent hundreds of possible job losses.

In the run-up to Denel’s board meeting on February 22, at which the group’s management would submit its proposed restructuring plan to the board, Solidarity had sent an urgent letter to Brown, Solidarity deputy general secretary Deon Reyneke said on Sunday.

Brown should suspend group CEO Zwelakhe Ntshepe, group chief financial officer Odwa Mhlwana, and board chairman Daniel Mantsha, pending a probe into various allegations of financial mismanagement against them, he said.

It was estimated that between 600 and 700 employers could lose their jobs should the restructuring go ahead. Ntshepe, Mhlwana, and Mantsha faced “various incriminating allegations, including allegations of misrepresentation of financial information and financial mismanagement leading to a loss of around R600 million”. 

“Moreover, the board granted performance bonuses of more than R8 million to its executive committee, having earlier increased the number of its members at a cost of between R16 and R33 million,” Reyneke said.

Criminal charges had already been laid against Ntshepe and Mhlwana after they had instructed, at the end of last year, that workers’ 13th cheques, which form part of their cost package, be withheld.

“In spite of such gross mismanagement and criminal behaviour, both Ntshepe and Mhlwana still received performance bonuses of R3.2 million combined,” Reyneke said. 

“The Denel group also had to foot the bill for Mantsha’s court cases and actions, including among others, the controversial Denel Asia agreement, the Fireblade court case, and disciplinary processes against the previous chief executive and financial officer which he had initiated and for which the group had to settle. 

Denel was now under severe financial pressure while workers would have to bear the brunt of top management’s malpractices. “It is unacceptable that Denel’s top six can simply go on unimpaired and without consequence to tap money and abuse tax money. We therefore call on the minister to urgently adhere to our request to suspend these administrators,” Reyneke said.

– African News Agency (ANA)