Arms firm Denel to produce ventilators in coronavirus fight

A surge in the need for the machinery is expected as the epidemic spreads.
Denel company logo is seen at the entrance of their business divisions in Pretoria, South Africa. Image: Reuters

Denel will design and develop medical ventilators in partnership with other state-owned entities, research bodies and medical technology companies to help treat coronavirus patients, the state arms and technology company said on Sunday.

Governments and hospitals globally have pleaded with manufacturers to speed up production of ventilators to cope with a surge in patients struggling to breathe.

Danie du Toit, group chief executive of Denel, said in a statement engineers from Denel Dynamics and Denel Aeronautics were already working round the clock on Project Sabela to produce the ventilators, without giving a target figure.

“We are still in the early stages of the project, but we are optimistic that this local initiative will help to alleviate the dire need for medical ventilators that are required in great numbers at both public and private hospitals,” Du Toit said.

A task force has been formed consisting of experts from Denel, Armscor, which acquires defence materiel on behalf of the Department of Defence, power utility Eskom, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and other entities to investigate designs and produce a prototype of a local medical ventilator.

Du Toit said he was confident the team would soon make huge strides in producing the ventilators at a time of global shortages.

On Saturday, the African Union called for international cooperation and support while up scaling local production of medical supplies and equipment on the continent given the urgent need for it.

Denel, a cornerstone of South Africa’s once-mighty defence industry, is also considering other initiatives in which it could repurpose its current operations and technology to assist the national effort to tackle to health crisis.

This includes looking at options to produce sanitisers for industrial and medical uses once product certification issues have been clarified and converting Casspir mine-protected vehicles into ambulances, the firm said.

South Africa has reported 1 585 coronavirus cases as of late Saturday, with nine deaths.

The ministry of health has approached President Cyril Ramaphosa to assist the department “with mobilising reinforcements” from various countries such as Cuba and China, it said on Saturday.

On the same day, Ramaphosa said he spoke to Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and “asked for technical expertise on infection control, supply of lifesaving equipment for mobile testing and infection control.”

South African officials have imposed some of the toughest anti-coronavirus measures on the continent, including a 21-day “stay at home” lockdown that started on March 27.


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Denel should still have enough resources to make this work. Good luck guys.

Awesome – and good luck !

Life gives you lemons, make lemonade!

There is an interesting MIT project for open-source respirator with target price around $200 instead of $40,000. Basically a blader with paddles, actuators and circuit board control, running off dirt cheap measurement chips.

Great idea.

Just keep the whole BEE shambles away from it.

LOL ja ne and the first lot will be ready to ship in Q2 2021 !!!!

Agree, this is amazing. An SOE that is absolutely and irreversibly unable to make money from its primary business – in which it is coincidentally both a monopoly and a monopsony – now wants to diversify into unknown territory to compete with international players from every continent of the world. What can possibly go wrong.

Du Toit said he was ging to reverse engineer equipment from Europe

Hardly a grand statement considering the theft of IP …but here if the Chinese are stealing IP why not other countries

Theft is theft

You are absolutely right. The Chinese built their economy using cut and paste.

In times like these the “parent” company should give their ventilator plans to enable other countries to manufacture under licence.

Greed vs compassion vs profits vs compassion all these factors go into the equation.

It’s so awesome to hear every body comment positively! I’m really grateful that. It makes us better people and South Africa a better nation. We are the most dynamic and awesome nation in the world! Let’s make our country the best in the world!

You have an awesome religion! I really want to join your church 🙂

With so much positivity, we’ll see the ZAR/US$ exchange rate clawing ourselves back to R5/$ as it was in early 2000’s.

We must be the most dynamic people. All working along together keeping our social spacing especially in informal areas, without talking too loud to one another, not spreading C19 through close up conversations.

When the lock-down ends, we the best country in SADC, will emerge as the best country ever. Govt will reduce income tax, as econ activity will pick up beyond expectations & Eskom’s debt is going to be paid soon.

I also want to join the ANC, like you. Give the party 5 years, and all unemployment will disappear into the history books!

(…how am I doing so far?)

Good luck Denel. That’s what South African Companies have to do. Stand together and show the world what can be done by opening local factories for clothes manufacturing, toys, etc., creating jobs and shown the credit agencies what we think of their downgrading. With a can do attitude we could end up better off, especially if we become exporters of clothes, medical products. Nothing is impossible it’ll, however, depend on the BBEEE mentality. Is that more important than the South African economy???

Bee should have a target and an end. Maybe 5% unemployment and then we all have a target towards. Otherwise other race groups will never feel fully welcome here. Everyone would make money and take it offshore unless they felt at home.

This is what politicians call a sunset clause i.e. a termination clause.
Too many fingers in the pie for this to materialise.

End of comments.





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