By Joseph Mosia

CAPE TOWN, South African Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown says the government has no intention of off-loading State-owned enterprises (SOEs).

Speaking during her department’s Budget vote debate in the National Assembly here Wednesday, Brown said these companies contributed to South Africa’s job creation, infrastructure development and industrialisation.

“We must maintain ownership of these SOEs, given their size and contribution to our economy. This will be done with private sector participation,” she said.

“They are key and strategic assets that we need to keep intact and continue to grow in order to guarantee the future of our children and create viable, sustainable and dependable future employers to reverse the current economic cycle.”

She added that these companies were critical in the quest to meet the country’s developmental goals and to create jobs for South Africans.

Brown outlined some of the achievements these companies had made in cushioning the country during the current tough economic times.

Following serious problems and constant requirements for government bailouts at some SOEs, calls have been growing for the privatisation of certain of the companies, but the government has so far insisted it will hold on to all strategic SOEs.

Brown said these companies were actually doing a lot to contribute to economic growth. As an example, she announced a new development from State armaments manufacturer Denel which could see it become a major player in moving the people of Africa.

However, opposition parties took issue with the Minister and the way she oversees these companies. Denel came in for special criticism as one of the main transgressors.

Members of opposition parties pointed to several incidents, including its joint venture with VR Laser Asia, which is linked to the controversial Gupta family, to help sell the company’s products in Asia.

Democratic Alliances Member of Parliament Natasha Mazzone said: “It has now come to light that Denel did not apply for the conventional arms permit as envisaged by the Act. The deal has not been approved by Minister Brown or the Minister of Finance, Pravin Gordhan, as is required by the PFMA. In the absence of Denel’s permanent Chief Executive, Chief Financial Officer and company secretary, all three of whom are on suspension, there is a strong suspicion that they were removed to clear the path for this deal.”