Gordhan leads the charge against Denel on Gupta links

Cape Town – Former finance minister Pravin Gordhan led the charge against another state-owned entity when he grilled Denel on Wednesday, demanding an honest answer about the state arms manufacturer’s dealings with Gupta-linked VR Laser.

“South Africans are worried that there is a common pattern in the capture process [of state-owned entities],” Gordhan said.

“A new board comes in and excuses misconduct and suspends executives (three in this case). And then a particular number of deals continue. We’ve seen similar patterns here - persuade us you had no choice at all to enter into this deal.”

Gordhan, who was dismissed in a midnight Cabinet reshuffle on March 31, went back to being an ANC backbencher and was recently appointed as a member of Parliament’s oversight committee on public enterprises.

It was his second appearance on the committee, after laying into Eskom on Tuesday over its reappointment of CEO Brian Molefe.

READ: MPs give Denel chair Mantsha a drubbing

“Many things may look like business decisions on the surface,” Gordhan told Denel during question time, “but we need to find out what’s below the surface. You need to demonstrate you’re not serving the families mentioned by yourselves.”

Gordhan asked Denel board chairperson Daniel Mantsha to clarify whether a company called Dentons had done an investigation into Denel. (Dentons also completed a report on Eskom recently.)

“When was the Dentons report requested, and is it true that you as chairperson decided not to pursue the investigation?” Gordhan asked.

He then asked Denel to clarify the existence of a report by ENSAfrica stating that there were risks involved with the joint venture with VR Laser Asia.

Gordhan referred to an affidavit currently in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, which raises concerns about Denel’s proposed deal with “politically exposed persons”.

“In the affidavit it is alleged that VR Laser is in financial difficulty. Is this true?”

He also asked Mantsha to elaborate on his meeting with Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba, who had allegedly ordered him to cancel the joint venture and withdraw Denel’s court application against National Treasury.

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