Numsa marches to demand Denel pay salaries, govt recapitalisation

The office of Denel in Pretoria.

The office of Denel in Pretoria.
Photo: Reuters
  • The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa marched to Denel on Friday, demanding that the arms manufacturer pay employees their salaries.
  • The union demanded that the Department of Public Enterprises re-capitalise Denel and give timelines for when funding will be made available.
  • Numsa also demanded that Denel not cut jobs as the arms manufacturer continues with its restructuring process.

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) marched to the Department of Public Enterprises’ (DPE) offices in Pretoria on Friday, demanding that it re-capitalise the state-owned arms manufacturer, Denel, so it can pay salaries to employees.

Denel has consistently grappled with financial challenges and has struggled to pay salaries on time consistently for years. This particular challenge has been the subject of labour court proceedings, as unions have had to get court orders to compel the entity to pay salaries.

As recently as May, the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria ordered Denel to pay R13.2 million in outstanding salaries to 42 un-unionised current and former employees after it could not pay its roughly 2 800 employees their full salaries since May 2020.

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Numsa marched to the department on Friday morning and handed over a memorandum of demands.

“Since lockdown was implemented, our members at Denel Pretoria Metal Pressings have experienced unending misery by officials in the Department of Public Enterprises. Denel is a viable business, but it is being deliberately collapsed. It urgently needs to be re-capitalised so that it can survive,” the memorandum said.

The memorandum added that Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan “seems determined to collapse this entity, just like South African Airways (SAA), SA Express, and Eskom”. Numsa said it expected Denel to be sold to “capitalist cronies” once it had collapsed.

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The memorandum said Denel potentially had billions of rands’ worth of contracts that could be serviced, but that the entity was unable to deliver on them because it had no operating capital.

“Denel PMP is the main supplier of ammunition and other products to the South African Police Service, the South African National Defence Force, Metro Police departments, SAA, and Sasol among others. It is currently being mismanaged and this will affect the safety and security of the country,” the memorandum said.

The memorandum said the DPE must re-capitalise Denel and provide “clear timelines” for when the funding will be made available. The union said it would not accept that this had to be done at the expense of jobs.

“Denel is restructuring and already it seems that there are plans to cut jobs. We reject any job cuts at Denel. We reject down varying and education in salaries and benefits. We are already facing an extremely high rate of unemployment in this country.

“We are advocating for the best alternative in line with the stakeholder’s social plan. We strongly believe that the state must intervene as this is the most strategic state-owned institution. There can be no retrenchment or restructuring that should affect workers while Denel DCO and Divisions still owe employees their salaries and benefits,” the memorandum said.

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Numsa said for the past 12 months, benefits including Pay As You Earn and Unemployment Insurance Fund payments have not been paid.

“Management at Denel corporate office is also responsible for the situation. They were given funding by the government and they have mismanaged it. They have failed to pay suppliers and they are to blame for the situation we are in. We demand the removal of the entire executive committee of Denel Pretoria Metal Pressings,” the memorandum said.

DPE spokesperson Richard Mantu said while the department did not have any comment, it received the memorandum of demands and that it would be studied and considered.

A Denel spokesperson could not immediately be reached for comment.

The memorandum was received by the deputy director-general at the DPE, Weekend Bangane.