Denel gives Supra’s son R1m pilot bursary

2018-04-15 06:02
Supra Mahumapelo. (Tiro Ramatlhatse, Gallo Images, Sowetan, file)

Supra Mahumapelo. (Tiro Ramatlhatse, Gallo Images, Sowetan, file)

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Denel – the state-owned defence company which had to borrow money to pay salaries at the end of last year – has bent the rules to give a R1.1m bursary to the son of North West Premier Supra Mahumapelo, so he can become a pilot.

Rapport, City Press’ sister publication, has seen the bursary contract between Supra Oarabile Mahumapelo (20) and Denel, in which Denel undertakes to pay for his flight classes, accommodation, meals and even his laundry.

When contacted for comment, Denel released a statement describing the bursary as ordinary and supposed to contribute to the transformation of the aviation industry.

But, just hours later, it forwarded communications in which Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan ordered them to retract their initial statement.

Gordhan told Rapport that the allegations were so serious and Denel’s conduct so questionable that he had immediately ordered the newly appointed board to begin an investigation.

This news comes as an increasingly embattled Mahumapelo faces a vote of no confidence in the North West legislature on Tuesday.

Trade union Solidarity raised the alarm about the bursary in a letter to Gordhan and new chairperson of the board Monhla Hlahla, who was appointed this week.

The union’s members who work at Denel protested against a bursary being awarded to Mahumapelo, but those complaints fell on deaf ears.

Zwelakhe Ntshepe, Denel’s CEO, personally signed the contract.

Mahumapelo junior applied for his bursary only after the final deadline of October 2016, but his application was approved nevertheless.

It was signed on January 31 2017.

Denel’s bursary programme is for finance, business management, IT and engineering, but Mahumapelo junior was able to study in a new direction.

Denel has a list of accredited institutions but the prestigious Port Alfred flight school where Mahumapelo junior is now studying to be a pilot is not on the list.

The course he is following now is aimed at students who have no previous flight training and who, after 17 months of intensive training, will be qualified to fly passenger airliners.

In Denel’s original response to Rapport, which it has now had to backtrack, it says three students from three provinces were given the opportunity to receive bursaries to become pilots, but it doesn’t name the other two.

Denel said it was the first time such bursaries were approved, but the decisions were taken in line with its strategy to develop a small regional airliner.

The rookie pilots would then be used as test pilots for the ambitious project, which exists only on paper and in the form of a life-size model of the planned aircraft.

A source inside Denel, who is familiar with aircraft testing, said it was absurd to think that a novice pilot could be used for such specialised work.

According to the contract, Denel doesn’t promise Mahumapelo a job, and he is obliged to work for Denel only if they actually have a job for him.

The premier’s spokesperson, Brian Setswambung, said Mahumapelo’s office had no say over how Denel awarded its bursaries and referred all queries to Denel.

Denel’s chief executive, Zwelakhe Ntshepe, had previously been linked to the Gupta family.

Ntshepe signed the contract for the aborted VR Laser partnership between Denel and the Guptas.

This week Mahumapelo faces a motion of no confidence brought by the Economic Freedom Fighters in North West as a result of his alleged involvement in the Gupta-linked company, Mediosa.

This mobile clinic service received R30m from the province as an advance.

The Hawks have raided Mahumapelo’s office in relation to another controversial project for a computer company, Nepo Data Dynamics.

The company allegedly received R215m for services that were not worth the money spent on them.

Collen Maine, leader of the ANC Youth League, also dropped a bomb this week when he said it was Mahumapelo who introduced him to the Guptas.

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