Armscor top brass suspended

Armscor top brass suspended

2005-02-25 07:18

Pretoria - The chief executive of Armscor and two of his senior managers were suspended summarily and for an undetermined period on Thursday.

They were asked to vacate their offices immediately and were prohibited from speaking to employees or the media about their suspension.

Sipho Thomo has been chief executive since 2000. Jan de Necker, senior manager of Armscor's business division, has been there for 17 years, and Boet van Staden, senior sales manager, has been with the company for 34 years.

De Necker and Van Staden were primarily involved in the sale of army equipment.

Dr Popo Molefe, chair of the board of directors, was appointed on Thursday as acting chief executive until a forensic investigation into the other three had been completed.

Molefe told Beeld the suspension followed allegations of administrative irregularities.

'Innocent until proven otherwise'

"The board hopes to complete the investigation swiftly, fairly and objectively.

"I want to state categorically that we regard the employees as innocent until the investigation proves otherwise."

Molefe says the investigation will start soon, and the men were suspended so that it could take place as fairly as possible.

"We hope to complete it soon as it causes pain and insecurity for those involved to be placed in the spotlight all the time."

Beeld learnt that the alleged irregularities could be connected to a variety of incidents.

One of them is apparently the handling of a destruction contract for obsolete army ammunition. This tender has been dragging on for months without any decision being made.

Another possible reason is the disposal of obsolete army equipment - including the handling of the donation of military vehicles to the SA National Museum for Military History.

This incident made headlines when military police arrested the curator and two museum employees because some of the equipment at the museum was still "in service" and deemed to be dangerous.

A Ratel combat vehicle was sent to an arms exhibition in the Middle East last year.

For various reasons, the vehicle overran its permit for being out of South Africa. This vehicle has been returned, however, and the investigation into the incident apparently did not point to any negligence.

A further possible reason why Thomo was suspended was because he had been at odds with defence secretary January Masilela and Denel chief executive Victor Moche for some time regarding various matters.

Also heads IT concern

Deputy defence minister Mluleki George had to intervene last year, for instance, in a battle between Thomo and Moche about Armscor's sales of redundant equipment.

Apart from being chairperson of the Armscor board, Molefe is also chair of Xantium Technologies, an IT concern.

He also founded the Lereko-Metier Capital Growthfund, an investment house for tourism, mining and financial services, with Valli Moosa, former minister of environmental affairs.