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Eskom to Investigate Alleged Racism by CEO De Ruyter

Andre de Ruyter Photographer: Dwayne Senior/Bloomberg
By Bloomberg
09 Mar 2021 8

(Bloomberg) --Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd. is investigating an allegation of racism against Chief Executive Officer Andre de Ruyter.

By Paul Burkhardt
Mar 9, 2021, 9:15 AM – Updated on Mar 9, 2021, 12:55 PM
Word Count: 433

The state-owned South African electricity producer will appoint an independent senior counsel to “establish the veracity and the basis to the allegation” made by suspended Chief Procurement Officer Solly Tshitangano, the utility’s board said in a statement Tuesday. It didn’t say how long the probe would take.

The investigation comes a year after De Ruyter took over the role of CEO with a brief to turn the utility around. The monopoly power company, which has accumulated 464 billion-rand ($30 billion) in debt, is considered the biggest threat to South Africa’s economy and its failure to maintain its outmoded plants has resulted in regular outages that have curbed economic growth.

De Ruyter has made some progress on the overhaul, including outlining a plan to split the company into three units and raising electricity tariffs. He’s also instituted investigations into continuing corruption at the utility.

Some decisions taken by the De Ruyter, whose appointment angered some of the nation’s labor unions because he is White, have raised tensions within the company.

When the utility announced in July it would cancel a contract for fuel oil with Econ Oil & Energy Ltd., an Eskom director disagreed with the findings of a probe into the matter and resigned. De Ruyter has also shuffled senior managers over performance issues.

READ: Eskom to Cancel 14 Billion-Rand Contract After Probe

The National Union of Mineworkers, Eskom’s biggest labor group, said last week it was “highly disturbed” by allegations of racism against De Ruyter for purging Black suppliers from the utility. It cited Tshitangano as saying that White-owned companies have been preferred.

The ongoing discord comes as the utility searches for a solution to address its debt pile that’s required government bailouts to service. Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan said last month that such a plan is expected to emerge by July. Eskom is also running an ongoing maintenance program to try and improve the reliability of its coal-fired power plants.

The utility’s board said the counsel it’s appointed will be able to interview any person that may be of assistance in the probe, consider any evidence and then make recommendations.

“The board unanimously and unequivocally stands against racism and sexism,” it said. “Simultaneously, however, the board has instructed the executive to promote a high-performance culture to enable the critically important turnaround at Eskom to be delivered as soon as possible.”

De Ruyter doesn’t have any additional comment beyond the statement, Eskom’s spokesman said by text message.

(Updates throughout with detail on Eskom’s operations and challenges.)
© 2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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All Comments 8

  • Is it not because the current supplier s have not performed perhaps? And that the nest of corruption within Eskom does not want to be disturbed from its looting activities?

  • Did De Ruyter ever really want this job? Did he really need to take it? No – he was persuaded to do so and now that he is attempting to set things at this particular SOE on an honest path the easiest way to get rid of him is to simply pull out the race card

  • Standard practice to pull the race card! Let fact drive the resolution of this allegation and not fiction.
    Similarly merit should drive supplier relationships not race. Reverse apartheid is no better than apartheid and socio-economic engineering never works, let alone can be afforded by SA.
    Stand firm and do your job De Ruyter!

  • It would be really great if headlines were written in the spirit of actually informing the public. ‘Eskom to investigate suspended CPO’s allegations of racism against CEO’ would be far more accurate. Why is the headline focused on De Ruyter & not the suspended CPO thrashing around for a lifeline.