Denel chief falls over bursary for Supra's son
Denel's new board has confirmed that the parastatal’s bosses acted irregularly when they awarded a bursary to former North West premier Supra Mahumapelo’s son so he could become a pilot.
Denel chairperson Monhla Hlahla told City Press’ sister publication Rapport that irregularities surrounding the R1m bursary to Mahumapelo Jr, as well as the decision to award a tender for a security contract to Mahumapelo’s brother Tau, were on the list of transactions the board was acting on.
On Friday, Hlahla called in Denel’s chief financial officer, Odwa Mhlwana, and gave him a choice: either be suspended or go on leave pending the finalisation of disciplinary charges against him. He chose the latter option.
Hlahla said Denel would consider laying criminal charges against those involved once criminal proceedings had been finalised.
The disciplinary proceedings against Mhlwana would begin as soon as this week, she said.
Hlahla, however, said Denel would not recover the money paid to Supra Oarabile Mahumapelo (20) because there were no indications that he had done anything wrong and because the board had to focus on the much bigger issue of wasteful expenditure.
“The favours to the Mahumapelos are a very small part of the wastage that we already have evidence of.”
In January last year, Mahumapelo Jr received his bursary of R1.1m from Denel to become an airline pilot.
A further two students received smaller bursaries.
Informed sources at the flight school in the Eastern Cape told City Press’ sister paper Rapport that one of the students had already failed and that Mahumapelo and the remaining student were having a tough time.
Shortly after Rapport revealed news of the bursary, Supra Mahumapelo said during a public meeting in North West that he would pay every cent of the bursary back if it had been irregularly awarded.
Mahumapelo did not respond to Rapport’s questions about whether he would now repay the bursary.
He previously said his son had applied for a bursary to become a pilot, like any other child would. He blamed his political opponents for targeting his son because they hated his father.
Zwelakhe Ntshepe, the chief executive officer of Denel who signed off the bursary, resigned for “personal reasons” last month, shortly after the matter made headlines. Denel’s former board chairperson, Daniel Mantsha, had already resigned in March.
Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan appointed a new board under Hlahla, the former head of Airports Company SA, in April.
Information from whistle-blowers and a letter members of trade union Solidarity wrote to Gordhan led to his asking for a forensic investigation into favours granted to the Mahumapelos.
Hlahla said that, since then, details of the scale of wasteful expenditure at Denel had been leaking out everywhere.
According to the parastatal’s 2016/17 annual report, it incurred R139m in irregular expenditure. Senior management had condoned a portion of this.
In the meantime, Denel last week had to battle to obtain another state guarantee – for R690m – to delay repayment of its loans.
“We can simply no longer justify paying the people responsible for wasting Denel’s money on massive salaries – not when ordinary employees are wondering whether they will still receive a salary next month,” Hlahla said.
That is why she personally gave Mhlwana an ultimatum on Friday. According to her, the recent forensic investigation by law firm ENSafrica had already delivered valuable evidence from whistle-blowers, in addition to Denel records.
“Any person who has already resigned can still be prosecuted,” said Hlahla.