Former Denel boss distances himself from state capture project
FORMER Denel Land Systems (DLS) chief executive Stephan Burger on Thursday defended his role in awarding lucrative contracts to Gupta-owned VR Laser and being party to advancing the state capture project.
Burger told the commission of inquiry into state capture that he saw benefits in partnering with VR Laser.
”I passionately feel the decision to award the contract to VR Laser was the right one, they were the best company. When this proposal was made to me, I only saw the benefits in it,” he said.
Burger said he took a business decision but indicated that he will not deny if he sometimes fell over his feet in applying policies but maintained the decisions taken in the best interest of the business.
”I really get upset when people say the decisions were taken to advance state capture. I don’t think it is fair,” he explained.
Burger continued: “I supported business decisions if they were in line with objectives”.
He also defended his track record at DLS, where was chief executive for 13 years, saying he took the business from a R218 million turnover, a huge overdraft and became profitable every year.
Burger said by 2016/17 DLS’s turnover was just under R3 billion.
”That performance in my view was unprecedented,” he added.
He told commission chairperson Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo that he was given an instruction to get into dealings with VR Laser Asia, of which he was part of the board and that Denel’s contention that just based on that criminal and civil action should be taken against me.
”That sounds unfair,” said Burger.
Justice Zondo said even the Guptas, if they were willing, he would have no hesitation giving them an opportunity to cross examine any of the witnesses that have implicated them if they meet the criteria.
”We must hear all sides,” he said.
Burger has criticised the investigating team particularly an investigator, who he feels has no complete neutrality, acted inappropriately and in an intimidating manner.
Justice Zondo has asked the investigator to prepare a proper affidavit to deal with allegations made by Burger.
”We will look into those concerns,” promised Justice Zondo.
Evidence leader Paul Kennedy SC on behalf of the legal team dealing with Denel stream of testimony assured Burger that members of the commission's legal team have taken an oath before Justice Zondo to act impartially, honestly and lawfully.
”We have no agenda in this matter at all. We are also concerned that everybody gets a fair opportunity to be heard and give their perspective,” Kennedy said.
Burger continues giving evidence on Thursday afternoon.