Denel cut ties with Gupta-linked firm once Zondo commission started
Johannesburg – Denel Land Systems (DLS) chief production planner Hendrik van den Heever revealed on Thursday that the state-owned aerospace and military technology company terminated contracts scored by a Gupta-owned firm once the state capture inquiry started.
Van den Heever told the commission that VR Laser had been awarded deals worth R345 million in the period up to 2018 by Denel, its divisions, wholly and partly subsidiaries.
According to Van den Heever, Denel ceased all business relationships with VR Laser on June 1, 2018 once the commission’s hearings started.
He also said he was disciplined and suspended for alerting LMT Holdings that VR Laser was interested in one of DLS’s contracts.
Van den Heever told the commission that his disciplinary action lasted five weeks and he received a final written warning.
He stated that VR Laser’s change of ownership to the Guptas’ empire in 2014 sparked media interest and a subsequent investigation by then Public Protector Thuli Madonsela.
Van den Heever described the difference in VR Laser’s fortunes once there was a change in ownership as “magnificent”.
Martin Drevin, DLS programme manager responsible for phase two of the Hoefyster project, told the commission he suggested that the contract for fabricated steel services and goods, fighting compartment module and fabricated armour steel structures, among others, be awarded to Denel’s then partly owned subsidiary LMT Holdings, after reading media reports about the involvement of the Guptas and former president Jacob Zuma’s son Duduzane in VR Laser.
He cited the news reports, the low price LMT Holdings quoted, which was R162m compared to VR Laser’s R265m, among his reasons.
”I get the feeling that we should go with LMT Holdings, spend the difference in price to get LMT up to standard with sufficient space, facilities and resources to handle the platform hull manufacturing,” said Drevin.
“LMT at the time didn’t have sufficient space, they had moved to a smaller facility, they would need more space to be able to manufacture the platform hull and outfit it so that it becomes a facility.”
However, some of Drevin’s bosses informed him that DLS could not take VR Laser out of the equation without them being blacklisted.