Communications minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni was “probably culpable” in the Gupta family’s capture of state-owned arms manufacturer Denel. That is according to the second part of the Zondo Commission’s State Capture Inquiry, which searches into how state-owned companies Transnet and Denel were effectively hijacked by the Guptas and their political allies.
Khumbudzo Ntshavheni’s role in the capture of Denel centres around the dismissal of three employees who had resisted the Guptas’ attempts to gain control over Denel through its board chairman at the time, Daniel Mantsha.
Daniel Mantsha, a former attorney of record for former president Jacob Zuma, was appointed by then public enterprises minister Lynn Brown, despite being struck from the roll between 2007 and 2011 for legal transgressions.
The commission’s report found that Mantsha and his supporters on the Denel board had manufactured a scheme to eliminate the three employees and replace them with individuals more friendly to the Gupta’s offers.
The three employees who the board suspended were Denel CEO Raiz Saloojee, CFO Fikile Mhlontlo and the company’s secretary Elizabeth Africa. Saloojee’s suspension came despite what the commission labelled as excellent performance at the company’s helm.
These suspensions were based on a contract awarded to Denel, which allegedly breached the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA), but to date, no sufficient evidence has been presented that this was indeed the case.
Like Mantsha, Ntshavheni claimed there was “strong evidence” that the executives were guilty of serious acts of misconduct and that this evidence was already available at the time of their suspension.
But for more than a year, the Denel board failed to hold disciplinary hearings for the suspended executives in which they could be presented with the evidence against them.
The commission also rejected Ntshavheni and Mantsha’s attempts to blame the disciplinary process delays on Denel’s legal department head.
It seemed clear that the board had continued to deny the executives an opportunity to respond to the allegations against them because they knew this would absolve the executives. The commission did not mince words when it came to minister Ntshavheni’s continued support of Mantsha’s view on the matter.
“It would have been expected that anyone who may not have realised this when it happened would have realised it by now, but even in 2021 — when so much evidence has been put in the public domain — Minister Ntshavheni still thinks that there was nothing wrong that the Board did,” the report stated