Denel SOC Ltd is a South African state-owned aerospace and military technology conglomerate established in 1992.[3] It was created when the manufacturing subsidiaries of Armscor were split off in order for Armscor to become the procurement agency for South African Defence Force (SADF), now known as the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), and the manufacturing divisions were grouped together under Denel as divisions. It is the largest of South Africa's state owned arms companies. The company had been experiencing major financial problems since 2015 and in 2021 it was announced in Parliament that Denel was on the brink of insolvency. The company stated that its woes were due to declining local defence budgets, weakened relationships with key customers and suppliers, the inability to retain or attract skilled personnel, ongoing salary disputes and a Fitch ratings downgrade.[4]

Denel SOC Ltd
TypeState-owned enterprise
IndustryAerospace and Defence manufacturing
HeadquartersCenturion, City of Tshwane, Gauteng, South Africa
Area served
Key people
Talib Sadik
Carmen Le Grange
Cruise missiles
Attack Helicopters
Transport Helicopters
Armoured vehicle turrets
Glide bombs
Artillery systems
RevenueDecrease R 2.729 billion (FY 2020)[2]
Decrease R -1.5 billion loss (FY 2020)[2]
Decrease R -1.9 billion loss (FY 2020)[2]
Total equityDecrease R 2.277 billion (FY 2020)[2]
Number of employees
Decrease3,137 (FY 2020)[2]
ParentGovernment of South Africa


Denel was established as a state-owned industrial company under the Department of Public Enterprises in April 1992. It inherited most of Armscor's production and research facilities, and over 15,000 employees. At the time of its formation, Denel restructured and reorganised the former Armscor subsidiaries into a number of divisions and subsidiaries within five industrial groups: systems, manufacturing, aerospace, informatics, and properties and engineering services.[5]

Denel has developed a number of notable products, such as:

The Overberg Test Range is used for advanced aerial testing of missiles by Denel and other clients such as NASA, EADS and BAE Systems.

Though Denel's market share is increasing, it still has not signed significant international contracts that will bring a real market return for its investments in development and research costs. In 2006, Denel signed a contract with the Finnish Navy for the Umkhonto air defence missile; this was a significant step, since it was the first significant sale to a western nation. The Swedish defence force was also interested in the Umkhonto missile, but due to budget constraints had to put its purchase on hold.

Although Denel has comparable quality products, at lower prices, it has struggled to attract buyers, with the Rooivalk attack helicopter being a prime example of this. After being developed at a cost of R1 billion,[6] no sales were made as the contract from Turkey for $2 billion was lost. The development of the Rooivalk, which could be Denel's most profitable project, also threatens to result in its largest loss ever.[6]

In 2009 and 2010 RheinMetall Denel, a Denel subsidiary, advertised artisan training programmes and study bursaries which excluded white applicants, but relented after a meeting with trade union Solidarity.[7]


The following divisions form part of Denel

Associated companiesEdit

Companies part-owned by Denel.[8]

Financial difficultiesEdit

In 2004 Denel CEO Victor Moche informed parliament that the company was near bankruptcy after suffering a loss in the financial year 2003/4 of R358 million contributing to a mounting company debt of R1 billion. This was blamed on a lack of access to foreign markets and not being able to secure domestic arms procurement contracts.[10] State capture (2011/12 to 2017) had a debilitating effect on Denel and consequently the country's defence capability.[11][12][13] The Zondo Commission placed the blame specifically on the 2015 board of directors, who almost immediately after their appointment started to implement a slew of poor decisions which brought Denel to its knees.[14]

In 2016 it was revealed that Denel had entered into a controversial single source supplier deal for ten years with VR Laser.[15][16] The deal was controversial due to the generous terms of the contract and because VR Laser was owned by the Gupta family which had close ties to then South African president Jacob Zuma.[16] This contributed to Denel incurring a loss, the first in eight years, amounting to R1.7 billion putting the company in financial difficulty.[17] This led to Denel not being able to pay staff and company pensioners.[18] In 2017 the civil society group Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) (OUTA) stated that it had laid corruption charges against the company's chairman Daniel Mantsha.[19] In March 2019 Denel representatives gave testimony to the Zondo Commission about the company's deal with the Gupta owned VR Laser.[20] Department of Public Enterprises Acting Director-General stated that the deal resulted in up to R3 billion in lost revenue for Denel.[20] Following the conclusion of forensic investigations into allegations of corruption in Denel the company announced in July 2019 that it would seek to recoup misspent money by pursuing civil and criminal action against former company executives.[21]

From May 2020 through to January 2022 some of their employees were not paid, or were only paid a part of their salary, despite being expected to report for duty every day.[22] The state owned company's financial troubles continued into 2021, when in April Denel Land Systems stopped paying its employees their salaries.[23] Union UASA started legal proceedings in 2020 to recoup its members' salaries, while Solidarity achieved a victory in the Johannesburg Labour Court in February 2022, when Denel was ordered to pay out R90 million. Solidarity also vowed to bring to book those responsible for the supposed "fund mismanagement and looting".[22] Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana announced in his 2022 budget address that the National Treasury had assigned Denel R3 billion in bailouts for the 2021/22 financial year.[22] Despite bank guarantees by government, Denel lost out on a R6 billion missiles deal (2022-2024) with Egypt, when South African banks cited ethical concerns and refused to extend a loan.[24]


  1. ^ "New CEO, CFO for Denel". FIN24. 26 October 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Denel 2020 Annual Report" (PDF).
  3. ^ "History". ArmsCor. Retrieved 23 July 2018.
  4. ^ "Denel at risk of collapse as money runs out". 17 February 2021.
  5. ^ "Conversion: The Case of Denel". Peter Batchelor (International Development Research Centre). 26 November 2006. Archived from the original on 24 November 2006.
  6. ^ a b "What went wrong with Rooivalk?".
  7. ^ "Whites to qualify for Denel bursaries". News24. 4 May 2010. Retrieved 2 March 2022.
  8. ^ "Associated Companies | Denel SOC Ltd". 1 September 2008. Retrieved 29 September 2015.
  9. ^ "Company Profile". LMT. Archived from the original on 21 July 2015. Retrieved 29 September 2015.
  10. ^ Pressly, Donwald (8 September 2004). "Denel 'at doorstep of bankruptcy'". The M&G Online. Retrieved 3 August 2019.
  11. ^ Cornelissen, Christel (18 February 2022). "Net een uit vier lugmagvliegtuie 'diensbaar'". Maroela Media. Retrieved 18 February 2022.
  12. ^ Staff Writer (17 February 2022). "Only a fraction of South Africa's airforce is operational right now". BusinessTech. Retrieved 20 February 2022.
  13. ^ Gibson, Erika (6 February 2022). "The defence force is seriously wounded, and state capture of Denel played a big role". TimesLive. Retrieved 2 March 2022.
  14. ^ AmaShabalala, Mawande (2 February 2022). "Khumbudzo Ntshavheni in Zondo's firing line over Denel dismissals". Politics. TimesLive. Retrieved 4 March 2022.
  15. ^ Paton, Carol (16 February 2016). "BusinessLIVE". BusinessLIVE. Retrieved 3 August 2019.
  16. ^ a b "Denel Asia could be unlawful". defenceWeb. 17 February 2016. Retrieved 3 August 2019.
  17. ^ Bavier, Joe; Alex; Winning, er; Reuters (30 November 2018). "'Severe crisis': Denel urgently needs partnership to survive". CityPress. Retrieved 3 August 2019.
  18. ^ Liedtke, Simone (12 July 2019). "Denel's liquidity crisis plunges employees into new financial crisis". Engineering News. Retrieved 3 August 2019.
  19. ^ "OUTA charges Denel board chairman with corruption". defenceWeb. 4 September 2017. Retrieved 3 August 2019.
  20. ^ a b "Denel at the Zondo Commission". defenceWeb. 18 March 2019. Retrieved 3 August 2019.
  21. ^ "Denel is going after bosses to get back 'misspent' money". TimesLIVE. 31 July 2019.
  22. ^ a b c Larkin, Philippa (25 February 2022). "Denel ordered to pay R90m to Solidarity members or face asset seizure". IOL. Retrieved 2 March 2022.
  23. ^ Martin, Guy (19 April 2021). "Denel Land Systems unable to pay April salaries". defenceWeb. Retrieved 20 April 2021.
  24. ^ Ginindza, Banele (2 March 2022). "Denel loses missiles deal after banks turn a deaf ear". IOL. Retrieved 20 March 2022.

External linksEdit