State-owned defence group Denel yesterday again accused National Treasury of inexplicably stalling on an application for the state arms manufacturer to enter into a strategic partnership with Gupta-linked VR Laser Asia, jeopardising a potential revenue stream.
It made the claim in a briefing to parliament’s portfolio committee on public enterprises, where the DA and Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) staged a walkout because neither Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown, nor her finance counterpart Pravin Gordhan, were in attendance.
DA MP Natasha Mazzone said in the ministers’ absence there was no chance to get to the truth of the matter that has become another chapter in the tug-of-war between the Treasury and the presidency over parastatals and the influence of the Gupta family.
The DA and EFF walked out after committee chairperson Dipuo Letsatsi-Duba refused their request that the meeting be postponed until Treasury officials were present. This followed a shouting match that prompted a threat from her to call in security. Acting Denel chairperson Daniel Mantsha told the MPs who remained the narrative of the company having been “captured” by the family was false, as VR Laser Asia had only one shareholder, Salim Essa.
He conceded it had “some links” with VR Laser’s local chapter, where the Guptas are involved, and Essa is the majority shareholder with 65%. “That there have been articles about state capture by the Guptas is neither here nor there, they are not shareholders in Denel SA.”
Mantsha defended Denel’s insistence on pushing ahead with the partnership despite warnings from Gordhan that it was flouting public finance rules, saying it was a “conscious decision” based on legal advice.
Gordhan has insisted that the deal was unauthorised. Mantsha made a call for Brown and Gordhan to meet soon to resolve the matter.