R1m Denel bursary to Supra's son: Solidarity threatens action

North West Premier Supra Mahumapelo. (Gallo Images/Sowetan/Tiro Ramatlhatse)
North West Premier Supra Mahumapelo. (Gallo Images/Sowetan/Tiro Ramatlhatse)

Trade union Solidarity has warned that it won’t hesitate to take action against any state owned enterprise (SOE) if it continues to squander tax-payers money, following revelations that Denel paid a bursary of more than R1m to the son of North West premier Supra Mahumapelo.

News24 sister publication, Rapport reported on Sunday it had seen the bursary contract between Mahumapelo's twenty-year-old son, and Denel, to become a pilot. Denel undertook 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 saying that it was to contribute to the transformation of the aviation industry.

READ: Denel gives Supra’s son R1m pilot bursary

However, it later 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.

Solidarity said on Sunday that the bursaries usually applied to programmes in IT, engineering, finances, and business management.

"The granting of this bursary is just more proof of the high level corruption that is prevailing in so many state-owned enterprises in South Africa where cadres are using such enterprises as their personal piggy bank," said Deon Reyneke, Solidarity’s deputy secretary general for defence and aviation.

Reyneke said the trade union had sent a letter to the newly appointed chairperson of the Denel board, Monhla Hlahla, which called for an in-depth probe into the granting of the bursary.

It further asked Hlahla to take steps against Zwelakhe Ntshepe, Denel’s chief executive, who had reportedly approved the bursary in his personal capacity.

"Moreover, rumours have been doing the rounds for quite some time that Mahumapelo Snr has ties with the Gupta family and is, in the bigger picture, linked to state capture," he said.

Scrutiny of the premier, who is facing a vote of no confidence in the North West legislature on Tuesday, has intensified in recent months.

City Press reported in March that Mahumapelo shunned state-owned IT service providers and opted for a private firm, Nepo Data Dynamics, to deliver a multimillion-rand technology upgrade in the province.

During a raid by the Hawks, among the documents seized from Mahumapelo’s and provincial treasury’s offices, were those related to payments to Nepo.

Reyneke said the revelation of the granting of the bursary to Mahumapelo came shortly after Solidarity announced it had launched a bid to have South Africa’s national carrier, SAA, placed under business rescue.

"Solidarity will not hesitate to take action against state-owned enterprises that squander South African citizens’ tax money," he said.

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