Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula. File photo: Phill Magakoe.

Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula fired two senior Armscor executives after being put under political pressure to explain the parastatal’s failure to deliver equipment for SA National Defence Force (SANDF) troops deployed on the continent.

Armscor chairman and Umkhonto weSizwe veteran retired Lieutenant-General Mojo Motau and his deputy, Telkom’s group compliance officer Refiloe Mokoena, make these revelations in papers filed at the Constitutional Court. Mapisa-Nqakula has appealed against Pretoria High Court Judge Frans Legodi’s decision, setting aside her removal of Motau and Mokoena. Motau and Mokoena want the minister’s appeal dismissed “on the grounds that it falls short of the doctrine of rationality”.

The two had argued at the high court that their removal was a serious violation of their right to dignity and just administrative action.

Legodi also declared Mapisa-Nqakula’s decision unconstitutional, unlawful, invalid and confirmed that Motau and Mokoena were Arsmcor (Armaments Corporation of SA) chairman and deputy chairwoman respectively.

In their response to the minister, Motau and Mokoena say Mapisa-Nqakula stated that their removal was not a legal matter but a “political matter” informed by her (Mapisa-Nqakula) experience. “The evidence makes plain that the minister’s decision to terminate the services of the directors from the board was based on political reasons, which were informed by her experience – although she did not disclose the nature of this experience,” say Motau and Mokoena.

Motau and Mokoena say Mapisa-Nqakula acknowledges that she came under pressure to explain delays in the finalisation of certain projects.

The Sunday Independent understands that the political pressure relates to Armscor’s delays in providing equipment to the SANDF adversely affecting soldiers deployed internally and externally. The SANDF is currently deployed in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, the Mozambican channel and on border protection.

In 2012/13, Armscor spent R5.9 billion on acquisitions for the defence department.

In Mapisa-Nqakula’s Constitutional Court papers, she blames Motau and Mokoena for the SANDF’s under-expenditure of more than R145 million for equipment Armscor failed to buy.

The equipment was for replacing outdated camping equipment, protection technology for the air force and a high altitude parachute system.

Mapisa-Nqakula says Armscor was failing her department and misunderstood its statutory function owing to lack of leadership.

“The relationship between the minister and the respondents (Motau and Mokoena) broke down, necessitating the minister, for the sake of national interests, to take the least invasive measure by terminating the services of the board of directors,” read Mapisa-Nqakula’s court papers.

Mapisa-Nqakula fired Motau and Mokoena but not other board members, who include former Public Service Commission chairman Dr Ralph Mgijima, Pamodzi Investment Holdings chief operations officer Sifiso Msibi, former Mbhashe local municipality mayor Dr Phumza Dyantyi, Group 5 director Dr John Job, businessman Leku Mosiako and BDM Group director Likobo Borole.

Meanwhile, Armscor is entangled in a legal battle with Jorge Pinhol, a Portuguese, who is claiming over E192m (about R2.86bn at today’s exchange rate). Pinhol, through his company Beverly Securities, claims he helped the country acquire the air force’s 50 Oryx helicopters in the 1980s.

Armscor has already spent R15m in legal fees defending the matter in a civil court of Lisbon, Portugal.

Mapisa-Nqakula’s appeal will be heard tomorrow. Her special adviser Mike Ramagoma declined to comment until the case was finalised.

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- Sunday Independent