Benz Man Won Arms Bid
|Publication||Mail & Guardian|
|Reporter||Evidence Wa Ka Ngobeni|
SA's key accounts man has a stake in the government's arms deal
A top official at
DaimlerChrysler South Africa, the company embroiled in the saga involving
African National Congress chief whip Tony Yengeni’s luxurious car, is linked
to a joint venture that was awarded a R220-million contract as part of the
government’s controversial arms deal.
Fanyana Shiburi, who is
a divisional manager for key accounts at DaimlerChrysler, is also a director of
the black empowerment company, Kgorong Investment Holdings, which through a
joint venture with European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (Eads) has
secured the R220-million radar contract. Eads was formerly known as
DaimlerChrysler Aerospace (Dasa).
Eads came in to the
spotlight last week after it emerged that Yengeni had landed the Mercedes Benz
ML320 4x4 three days after Eads received it from DaimlerChrysler South Africa.
Shiburi handles, among other things, fleet orders from the government and
state-owned enterprises at DaimlerChrysler SA. A sister operation in South
Africa, DaimlerChrysler Finance Services, started funding Yengeni’s car seven
months after he received it from Dasa after rumours that Yengeni had received
the car as a gift. Yengeni formerly chaired Parliament’s defence committee.
It is unclear whether
Shiburi had any influence over the provision of finance for Yengeni’s car.
Shiburi denies that he was instrumental in securing the car finance. Eads and
Kgorong each have a one-third stake in Reutech Radar Systems (RRS), the company
that won the radar bid. The other shareholder in RRS is Reunert.
DaimlerChrysler in 1997. He previously worked in the public relations and
marketing department of the National Soccer League (now Professional Soccer
League). Formed in 1998, Kgorong features leading figures with strong government
links, including Danisa Baloi, chair of the Gauteng Tender Board and deputy
chair of the state-owned arms company Denel. Sello Rasethaba, the chair of the
State IT Association, and Mafika Mkwanazi, deputy CEO of Transnet and chair of
South African Airways, are also listed as directors.
Eads was formed from a
merger of three companies — Aerospatiale Matra South Africa, Construcciones
Aeronauticas South Africa and Dasa.
The Sunday Times revealed last week that the Mercedes Benz ML320 4x4 ordered by Dasa in October 1998 was registered in Yengeni’s name a few days after it was ordered as a “private staff vehicle”.
DaimlerChrysler SA said this week the 4x4 was
bought by Dasa on September 1998. Lulama Chakela, a representative for
DaimlerChrysler SA, said an internal investigation by her company has found that
Yengeni’s 4x4 was sold to Dasa in the “normal and regular course of dealing
with an associated company”.
Chakela said Yengeni bought the car from Dasa
(Eads) and approached DaimlerChrysler Finance Services in May 1999 with a view
to get car finance, which he did.
“Please don’t ask me why he bought it from
Dasa or why he approached DaimlerChrysler Finance Services for financing. The
transaction is between Dasa and whoever is investigating the matter,” Chakela
said. DaimlerChrysler SA did not know what then happened to the car and had no
further interest in the matter, Chakela said, adding that her company had
nothing to do with the car finance Yengeni received from DaimlerChrysler Finance
“DaimlerChrysler Finance Services is an independent company from us. It is our sister company, but it has its own management and reports to DaimlerChrysler Germany,” Chakela said.
It remains unclear why Yengeni applied for car
finance from DaimlerChrysler after he had been in possession of the car for
seven months; or why the car was registered in his name three days after the car
was dispatched to Dasa.
It also appears that Yengeni’s receipt of
finance from Daimler flouts DaimlerChrysler Finance Services’s own
regulations. It is understood Yengeni could not have received the car finance
had DaimlerChrysler Finance Services officials followed proper finance
regulations, which would normally require financing to be secured before receipt
of the car.
The Mail & Guardian posed these questions to DaimlerChrysler
Financial Services on Wednesday afternoon. The company replied: “We respect
your concern to inform the general public. You are aware, however, that this
matter is currently being investigated by the Investigating Directorate for
Serious Economic Offences and we confirm that we are cooperating fully with this
investigation authority,” said DaimlerChrysler Financial Services
representative Amanda Wilmot. Wilmot added: “Whilst we have nothing to fear,
we are not prepared to debate these issues in public and must therefore
reluctantly decline to respond to your questions.”
Shiburi referred questions to Kgorong Investment
Holdings chair Letepe Maisela, who in turn said he had nothing to do with the
matter. Chakela also said this week that Eads had since handed over documents
relating to Yengeni’s car to state investigators probing the R43,8-billion
arms deal. Chakela said Shiburi had informed DaimlerChrysler about his
directorship at Kgorong Investment Holdings.
The ANC said on Wednesday the allegations against Yengeni result from delays in the arms probe “creating a field day for speculative mischief-makers”.
Meanwhile, Ntshikiwane Mashimbye, the current chair of the defence committee, has travelled to France on a trip sponsored by Dasa and received a diary from RRS. This is recorded in the Parliament’s asset register.
Yengeni this week protested his innocence in a special address to the National Assembly, saying reports that he was given the luxury 4x4 vehicle by a company linked to the R43,8-billion arms deal were untrue.
“The motor vehicle has been legitimately
purchased by myself,” he said, adding that he was “reluctantly responding”
to the allegations.
During his tenure as chair of the defence
committee Yengeni presided over the government’s defence acquisition
management and defence review, which was accepted by Parliament in April 1998.
The defence review recommended, among other things, the need for new radar
Yengeni says: “The acquisition of the vehicle
did not in any way whatsoever influence the award ... of any contract in the
arms procurement, which is under investigation.”
With acknowledgment to Evidence Wa Ka Ngobeni and Daily Mail & Guardian.