Ina Opperman

By Ina Opperman

Business Journalist

Unpaid Denel workers killing themselves, living out of their cars

With so many people in the country suffering due to the pandemic, it seems we have forgotten the unpaid Denel workers.

Denel workers are suffering without their salaries. Two have taken their own lives, while others have to send their children to school in winter with clothes that are noticeably too small for them. Many have lost their cars and many stand to lose their homes. And some of them are always, always hungry.

ALSO READ: Unpaid Denel workers killing themselves, living out of their cars

A look at the Denel Group’s website shows that its values are:

  • Performance: we embrace operational excellence
  • Integrity: we are honest, truthful and ethical
  • Innovation: we create sustainable investment solutions
  • Caring: we care for our people, customers, communities, nations and the environment
  • Accountability: we take responsibility for all our actions.

It is hard to believe that a company with these kinds of values would let its workers go without salaries or only 20% of their pay each month. The fact is Denel workers are suffering and feel they have been forgotten by the company, government and the rest of the country, says the wife of one of the employees.

ALSO READ: Denel on the verge of imploding

Some families lost all their income because both parents work for Denel. They have lost their cars and will probably also lose their homes over the next few months if they can’t pay their home loans. People who never thought they would go hungry have to swallow their pride and ask for food parcels, she says.

One of the employees lost her house but was lucky enough to keep her car. She only has a place to sleep with family, but has to keep her clothes in the boot of her car. The back seat is her kitchen where she makes sandwiches before work.

Company value: Caring: we care for our people, customers, communities, nations and the environment.

Another employee hanged himself on Christmas Day because the future was so bleak. Another was in a bad accident last year and lived in constant pain after breaking almost every bone in his body. Denel refused to board him. When his mother died, he sent his wife to Cape Town to bury her. While she was gone, he shot himself.

ALSO READ: Cash-strapped Denel must dig deep to pay salaries

People are resigning in droves, but those close to retirement stick around to get their pension. If they resign, they first have to pay tax before they get their money because Denel did not pay their PAYE to SARS although it reflects on their pay slips. Sars only advises them to get their money back from Denel, the employee’s wife says.

Company value: Integrity: we are honest, truthful and ethical.

Pension payments have not been made for the past six months. Some employees’ medical aid has been stopped because no payments were made. People collecting chronic medication suddenly found they had to pay cash at the pharmacy – if they could afford it.

ALSO READ: Denel executive and staff salaries cut amid cash crisis

Staff at Denel Corporate still get their full salaries, the wife says. In her husband’s office, the fluorescent light has not been working for the past few months. Because the windows are tinted, he has to open them to get light. Now he has to wear a thick jacket in the office because it is cold with the windows open and the air conditioning does not work.

People who cannot afford to pay for fuel to travel to work can work from home, but they must buy their own data, despite promises that they will receive extra money for this.

Company value: Accountability: we take responsibility for all our actions.

People who resign go to work in Saudi Arabia or the UAE where they work on the contracts Denel lost. The wife tells US that Denel recently won a R7 billion missile contract from Egypt. The government refused to guarantee the R100 million required and by the time an Egyptian bank agreed to finance the deal, it was too late and the project was awarded to a French company.

Company value: Innovation: we create sustainable investment solutions.

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