Suspended Denel exec dubs Gordhan probe ‘state capture’

Public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan is off the hook after the suspended Denel Dynamics CEO, who lodged a grievance against him, refused to participate in the grievance investigation after complaining that the process has an element of state capture.

This is contained in a grievance report dated March 15.

 Sello Ntsihlele had filed a case of harassment against Gordhan, Denel board chairperson Gloria Serobe, and senior executives but was summarily suspended in November last year allegedly without explanation, while his multiple grievances, including the one against Gordhan, were under investigation.

 The harassment case was filed after  Gordhan was heard yelling at Ntshihlele in a leaked audio recording of their meeting. He told him to leave and allow others to run the company. Gordhan said Ntsihele “cannot continue to draw a salary and continue to behave like this”.

His outburst came after Ntsihlele allegedly told Denel’s trade union stakeholders that the company’s board was “useless”, which triggered Gordhan.

After Gordhan’s tirade, Ntsihlele wrote a grievance letter and pushed for the minister to be disciplined.

“My view is that these threatening remarks by the minister and other senior officials in Denel and the [department of public enterprises] constitute intimidation and abuse of power on their part  as it essentially encourages those under their influence to victimise me.”

Ntsihlele said the attacks on him began when he arrived at the virtual meeting.

He said Gordhan “couldn’t wait to attack me, as he began before I could sit down”.

“The directed attacks were further revealed by the minister’s comments about me not involving Aeronautics people on our UAE trip, suggesting that he has been in other conversations about the issues in Denel and he has taken sides – against me,” said Ntsihlele.

But his case against  Gordhan collapsed after he refused to partake in the investigation of the grievances because he had raised doubts about its legitimacy,  saying it had all the hallmarks of state capture.

Ntsihlele complained that the investigators, Mothle Jooma Sabdia Incorporated (MJS), who were appointed by a legal official in Denel on the instruction of acting Group CEO Michael Kgobe should have been appointed by a person who had the power to sanction Gordhan if the case against him was proven.

Investigator Thipe Mothle asked whether President Cyril Ramaphosa was perhaps the most appropriate person to appoint MJS since he had the powers to act against both Gordhan and Serobe.

Ntsihlele said he told him it would have to be someone who is “accountable for the two of them, and someone who is superior to them”.

Regarding the terms of reference for the investigation, Ntsihlele said they were “extremely inadequate”, and asked which regulated procedure dealt with accusations of “abuse of power”.

“He believes that MJS was not appointed independently and that the investigation being dealt with has elements of the state of capture, therefore he thinks it cannot be dealt with at this level, against those two individuals,” Mothle wrote in the report.

In conclusion, he wrote: “The employee refused to partake further in the process for reasons as aforementioned.”

Gordhan verbally attacked Ntsihlele during a virtual meeting on August 24 last year.

 In a reply then, public enterprises spokesperson Richard Mantu refuted Ntsihlele’s allegations. 

“Denel was one of the SOEs impacted by state capture, as evidenced in the Zondo commission report. The minister and the department won’t be deterred or distracted from confronting corruption and maladministration at Denel.”

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