Denel board worries about pressure to sell share in arms dealer to Saudi

Denel’s board members are concerned that there is a ‘behind the scenes’ lobbying effort to pressure them into a deal with Saudi Arabia, according to the Mail and Guardian.

According to the report, things are pretty dire at Denel, “employees were asked to bring their own toilet paper to work and salaries and working hours have been cut”.

When you have to bring your own toilet paper to work, the company isn’t doing well, so finding a third party willing to put some money into the business is pretty important.

Saudi are not the only parties that have expressed interest in the state arms manufacturer, and no deal has been reached to sell it.

The board also doesn’t want to ignore proper procedures, including diplomacy between the government involved.

The deal would require bilateral agreements, and the go ahead from government’s shareholder representative, the department of public enterprises, treasury and the National Conventional Arms Control committee.

In other words you can’t just sell our national arms manufacturer to another country.

My Take
Why are Saudi Arabia so keen on buying a stake in Denel, a business which is in such a bad way?
Here’s my suspicion:
The thing to consider is the outrage across multiple countries attached to the murder of Jamal Kashoggi.
The reason I believe Turkey with regards to Kashoggi’s murder, is that it really doesn’t serve their ruling party’s political interests to lie about it.
Tayipp Recep Erdogan is a Sunni theocrat who’s position of power is founded in Turkey’s religious right and the power of the mosques. Saudi is pretty influential in that sphere, and upsetting them isn’t something Turkey especially wants to do.
Saudi has a long and deplorable list of human rights abuses, whether we’re talking about the war in Yemen, its treatment of women, the treatment of the irreligious and religious minorities, or even the degree to which its leadership has funded terrorism.
Kashoggi could well represent the final straw.
US president Donald Trump isn’t keen on efforts such as putting sanctions upon the kingdom, but Ronald Reagan wasn’t keen on putting sanctions on South Africa.
So Saudi wants to secure a supply of weapons – and Denel could well be part of that.
We in South Africa are in pretty dire straits financially, which makes us likely to take deals we otherwise wouldn’t. The pressure right now is definitely on, and I would be surprised if there wasn’t lobbying within government to take the deal.
The question is, do we want children’s hospitals in Yemen to be blown up with bombs, with the words “Made in South Africa” stamped on the bottom of them?
  • Picture courtesy of Denel.
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