A major security breach at state-owned arms manufacturer Denel may have led to the theft of highly sensitive and classified weapons technology information.
This is according to City Press, which reported that President Cyril Ramaphosa has authorised the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) to investigate the matter.
The report stated that the intellectual property related to Denel’s missiles was stolen by current and former employees and given to arms company Saudi Arabian Military Industries (Sami).
Many former Denel engineers with experience in designing and manufacturing missiles are now working at Sami.
An army general told City Press that what happened at Denel is industrial espionage and amounts to treason.
Big problems at Denel
This report comes at a time when Denel finds itself in such financial trouble that it is struggling to pay salaries and service its debt.
The reason for the mess at the company, Denel CEO Daniel du Toit said, is the hangover of state capture and mismanagement.
Du Toit said there is a direct link between state capture involving the Gupta family and the company’s financial predicament.
State capture is, however, not the only reason. “We have to be objective in our assessment – there is also an element of mismanagement and poor efficiencies,” he said.
“The effect of state capture is enormous on the organisation, which is broken and paralysed as a consequence of state capture,” he said.
Du Toit said the Denel board and management are taking action with the support of their audit firms, with legal action against those implicated in corrupt dealings.
He said they are trying to recover some of the money linked to state capture, but that it is not as significant as with some of the other state-owned enterprises.
Denel has a wide variety of missiles, including air-to-air missiles, air-defence missiles and anti-armour missiles.
The company’s flagship Umkhonto missile is an indigenous product, designed, developed and manufactured in South Africa.
The Umkhonto missile design includes stealth (passive IR seeker and low smoke rocket motor) and flexibility (multi-target engagement and ability to launch from any position).
The missile is high-velocity and infrared homing, providing all-round defence against simultaneous attacks from missiles and aircraft.
Although it is a surface to air missile, it is also capable of taking out stationary surface targets.
The Umkhonto was designed with a 23kg warhead for high-kill probability, unlike other SAM missile systems in its class.
In September 2018 Denel Dynamics announced that it is expanding its missile portfolio with new weapons and was enhancing its existing missiles.
The new missiles included the Cheetah air defence missile and P2 surface-to-air munition.
This complemented Denel’s wide range of existing missiles, including the Umkhonto, Umbani, Mokopa and Ingwe missiles.