In an acrimonious court battle in which Denel stands accused of pulling strings at the behest of the Guptas, the state-owned arms manufacturer’s acting chief executive, Zwelakhe Ntshepe, has done his utmost to distance Denel from the controversial family.
But two confidential letters not only suggest the opposite, they seem to indicate that the Guptas and their partners are well positioned to benefit from Denel’s plans to inject itself in the Asian arms market.
The only person who stands in their way seems to be Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan.
The current battleground is the Oppenheimer family’s plans to establish a luxury international airport terminal in Johannesburg. The family alleged in court papers filed last year by their aviation company, Fireblade, that the Guptas were trying to use their influence over Denel to hijack their project.
Answering the Oppenheimers’ “vexatious and scandalous” accusations, Ntshepe denied under oath in February that Denel “has ever entered into a joint venture with an ‘Indian entity’ ”.