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After the Bell: There are implications to André de Ruyter’s public revelations about the Eskom crisis

After the Bell: There are implications to André de Ruyter’s public revelations about the Eskom crisis
Former Eskom CEO André de Ruyter. (Photo: Gallo Images / Beeld / Deaan Vivier)

It’s been a long time since I was blown away by an interview, but Annika Larsen’s conversation with former Eskom CEO André de Ruyter was riveting. Very large tip of the hat to Annika for doing the interview, for conducting it so delicately but probingly, and to eNCA for flighting it. But an even bigger hat-tip to De Ruyter for coming forward and speaking his mind and for being brave enough to reveal so much. And, don’t forget, this is someone who has already survived one assassination attempt.

As a journalist, I have always found André De Ruyter to be extremely circumspect and guarded in his public comments. In the past three years as CEO, he has bent over backward to be respectful in his public persona. Despite repeated attempts by different members of the press, De Ruyter has resisted entering the political arena and has been discreet to a fault. Clearly, he was holding a lot in.

But over the past few weeks, with the end of his term looming, the gloves have come off. Presumably, that was not only the consequence of the end of his tenure, the attempt on his life, and perhaps more particularly, the ruthlessness with which he was cast aside and humiliated by the political elite when it became convenient for them to do so, i.e. when load shedding became unbearable. 

Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe’s comment that Eskom management was “agitating for the overthrow of the state” will be forever freeze-dried in infamy.

If you haven’t heard the interview, do catch it here, because summaries don’t do it justice. Among the allegations De Ruyter makes are:

  • Eskom is losing R1-billion a month to graft and theft.
  • An unnamed senior member of the ANC, who is currently a sitting member of Parliament, is deeply involved.
  • At least four organised crime networks operate in Mpumalanga which feed off Eskom. The crime networks have adopted “Mafia-like” characteristics, like calling each other “soldiers”.
  • The policemen sent to investigate his poisoning were so inept and junior they confused a dose of cyanide with a sinus complaint.
  • He was told by a minister in government it was “inevitable” that a portion of the $8.5-billion COP26 fund aimed at accelerating SA’s energy transition would be stolen.

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He also made a couple of absolutely flagrant political allegations and comments, some of which he acknowledged he had no extensive proof. For example, he was asked, “Do you think Eskom is a feeding trough” for the ANC?” to which he replied, “That’s what the evidence suggests.”

He also said that the ANC was still haunted by the ghosts of Marx and Lenin. Phrases that people had not heard since the 1980s were still common in the ANC, like using the term “lumpenproletariat” and addressing each other as “comrade”.

Right. So, now we are in battle mode and, consequently, we need to be a bit careful here. 

Does De Ruyter have any incentive to go overboard? Well, of course he does. As he himself acknowledges, his term of office has been a failure – at least in terms of keeping the lights on. This is disheartening and he needs to think about his legacy. 

Even though he was fantastically calm during the interview, he is obviously fuming, but, equally, he is understandably hurt, embarrassed and clearly feels let down. 

Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan is clearly at fault here. But does that create an incentive to overstate the case? Of course it does.

Think, for a moment, what the consequences of his allegations would be if they are true. First, it would mean the ANC has learnt nothing from the past decade of increasing corruption and economic malaise. It would mean the party, incredibly, has not learnt that the population of South Africa expects the government to serve the people and not themselves; that corruption is still rampant in the party, and that party members now regard it as “inevitable”.

Second, it would mean that the billions spent on the Zondo Commission mean nothing, because the culture of theft and corruption continues. The findings, the learnings, as they are now called, are like a little bit of smoke in the wind. 

And finally, that party members are setting up to steal money, or extort money, or unduly grant themselves contracts, or something, from the huge US/European Union fund intended to facilitate our energy transition.

Can I just tell you how unpopular that will be with the mandarins of Brussels? It suggests a massive misreading of how Europeans regard corruption. South Africans pretend to themselves that nobody cares if some money falls off the table.

But in my experience, Europeans actually care deeply about this, and the reason is not moral (or not only moral); it is also functional. 

A number of European political parties govern by a thread. The smallest whiff of impropriety can cause a government to collapse. Just ask Boris Johnson. And, as we have seen from Qatargate, allegations can very quickly result in a whole bunch of European Parliamentary ministers ending up in jail just as quickly.

In response to the interview, the Eskom board cut short De Ruyter’s term of office by a month. No surprise there; the board is a function of the shareholders and, in this case, the only shareholder is the government. But in my opinion, it was the wrong thing to do because it suggests the board is complicit in the wrongdoing.

Minister in the Presidency Mondli Gungubele said: “I find that, unless he can demonstrate evidence, this is insulting.” He continued: “He [De Ruyter] knows that the ANC government is committed to cleaning up government.”

Well, given these new allegations, that actually now remains to be seen. BM/DM

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Warren Wilbraham says:

    Corruption and graft will never be cleaned up until we get rid of this terrible “party list” electoral system. The fact that I cannot vote for a person directly means that politicians have zero accountability to the people of the country. A politicians aim is to “be on the list” at all costs, and of course this will involve all the dark arts of persuasion. Unfortunately meaningful electoral reform will never happen, turkeys never vote for Christmas.

  • virginia crawford says:

    The money from COP should be frozen immediately and only released when clear checks are in place. I don’t believe the ANC is against corruption and they have learnt nothing ftom the Zondo Report, except that prosecutions are slow. The lack of investment in S.A. says it all – the thieving and looting are regarded as fact.

  • Andrew W says:

    This view that ADR must bring evidence is amazing. The Zondo report is complete and ready to go for prosecutions. It would seem that anti corruption and the need for competence must be ‘western concepts’ and therefore not relevant in Africa. Onward Comrades!

  • quinton says:

    We are all fools if we thought that the Zondo Commission was going to put an end to corruption. As well as the ANC routing out corruption. If anything, it will only accelerate the theft. ANC know that they sta d a chance of losing in 2024, so they need to make hay while the sun shines…

  • Wayne Gabb says:

    Simple, who would you believe ANC Hyenas attacking him personally and not claiming he is a liar or De Ruyter , who will have others in the room to verify such statements.

  • Gregory Michael Van Der Krol says:

    We have seen nothing from the ANC that suggests they are serious about getting rid of corruption within their ranks. The leaders in the ANC love to talk the talk but they cant walk the walk. They are to scared of losing popularity amongst their members. In order to clean up their act they actually need some ethical moral leadership and that is non-existent in the ANC.

  • Stef Viljoen Viljoen says:

    If a guy sits in parliament and he is corrupt there is absolutely no doubt that his colleagues know about it. Based on that assumption they either condone the corruption or they partake or are too scared to say anything about it. It’s unlikely that one person in a whole gang carries that much power so it is unlikely to be the last option. That leaves condonation or participation. Or both.

  • Jeremy Collins says:

    The faux-revolutionary bluster coming from the ANC says it all. They’re panicking.

    De Ruyter is a corporate leader, and he’s not going to risk his reputation and future employability by making allegations without solid facts to back him up. I think the most telling moment was when he hinted at the ongoing SIU investigations and what those will reveal.

    Hopefully De Ruyter has checked the ANC’s COP26 feeding plans, and maybe the enhanced scrutiny of Eskom’s procurement will slow the graft sufficiently to allow us to avoid a total grid collapse.

  • Kirsten du Toit says:

    Valuable insight into the funding of the 2024 elections. With money flowing in, from treasury too, the taxpayers’ money truth be told, the feeding frenzy at this trough will be intense. Keeping these ‘feeders’ from killing another SOE and, exposing the state sanctioned graft, is now paramount to patriotic duty. Continued scrutiny and court action to force this pylon of vipers to disclose their diabolic dealings is critical. Now more than ever. Our collective future, our very lives are at stake, the consequences of allowing a corrupt government to prevail have never been more dire. Good citizens increasingly powerless. Pun intended.

    P.S. ADR requires Whistleblower Protection ASAP

  • jcdville stormers says:

    Our goverment is totally corrupt,unsaveable,a disgrace.

  • Bruce Sobey says:

    Something the interview highlighted that has not been picked up in the reporting is how much water the coal fired stations use. This is a massive additional vulnerability.

  • Johan Buys says:

    A billion a month! It is a disappointing that DeRuyter did not do anything about the corruption years ago. Note also that he had a legal duty to do so. I’m not attacking his disclosures or defending the thugs. With any luck there are lots of files and copies of evidence stored somewhere safe in the cloud. Give that to investigative reporters and SARS.

  • D'Esprit Dan says:

    Fact: The ANC is a criminal enterprise established as a political party and run as a Ponzi scheme. You simply don’t get to the top of the pile without having promised a heap of people a turn at the trough along the way.
    Fact: The ANC is, as ever, more concerned with race baiting and insults than looking at extremely serious allegations about its members. It is common cause that corruption is rampant at all levels of government and its organs (such as SOEs), so why the outrage, other than to cause diversion?
    Fact: Fikile Mbalula sounds more and more like Comical Ali every day. The complete lack of self awareness when he called de Ruyter a failure, against the backdrop of his destruction of our railways, ports and roads under his watch – never mind his term as the most useless Police Minister despite stiff competition from the incumbent, the highest ranking kitskonstabel in South African history.
    Fact: Ramaphosa has been exposed for what he is: a spineless, useless, cowardly instrument of the party, used to facilitate an orgy of violent, malevolent theft and destruction against the people of South Africa.
    Fac: There is not a single good person in a position of power in the ANC anymore.

  • Bill Gild says:

    Mr de Ruyter – get yourself and your family to safety ASAP.

  • Karen G says:

    Nomvula Mokonyane was implicated in the Zondo commission, she has also openly admitted to getting an Aston Marten from a friend who was hoping to get in on Eskom work via her husband. If this is not an example of ANC corruption I do not know what is – Obviously ANC think this is Ok because they rewarded her with top six position.

  • Sven Coles says:

    Is there no end to this nightmare? A state failing it’s people, wholly? I used to be willing to die for this country. No longer! Time to bring this corrupt, incompetent government to an end. They are not serving the people.

  • Jon Quirk says:

    And now we are globally grey-listed; our government has zero shame and no concept of accountability and transparency; why else would they now go back to a CFO put in place in the rampantly corrupt, Koko/Zuma era?

  • Michael Hayman says:

    They talk of evidence. What a joke. Have you seen anyone in jail after the Zondo report ?It is impossible to get rid of corruption in the ANC. Every single corrupt one of them are in their positions owing each other a favor so they would never ruffle the feathers of their close “comrades”.

  • James Harrison says:

    Hear hear. That interview will go down in history. It has left me and many others with a deep sense of despair about our government and whether there is any way out of the malaise that is Eskom and the ANC. What we need now is for people like De Ruyter and others to provide leadership and solutions so that we can rediscover hope.

  • Wish rest of corporate SA would show the same courage as de Ruiter. You big boys have no balls. Time to stand up and call every single bluff the corrupt have. You have the power. Use it.

  • Ian McGill says:

    The final axing was the swiftest thing this ANC government has done in almost the last 30 years. That tells me this man speaks the truth. Just think to yourself, how many convictions have we seen post Zondo? A few small fish. Has the ANC suspended anyone? Carl Niehaus! Mainly ‘cos it was ANC cash he stole. I will wait for Gwede Mantashe to be charged, might be a long wait!

  • Debbie Hishin says:

    So how about DM, OUTA, amaBhungane etc work together to help the likes of ADR? Why did eNCA take the interview down? Is content still being created for clicks or to make an impact and change behaviour?

  • Dragon Slayer says:

    The fact that de Ruyter had to spill all in a public interview with ENCA (not SABC🙄) is most telling. It is testimony that all other options had failed or been deliberately thwarted. It is also evidence that after the clumsy looting of the arms deal, the ANC’s only mission, like the mafia and drug cartels, has been to relentlessly embed foot-soldiers in every government position to protect the indefensible.
    Maybe it is time for a coalition of political parties to commit to bring to justice everyone in, and who benefited from, these treasonous action. The sins of the fathers Exodus 20:5-6

  • Lisbeth Scalabrini says:

    I have been very naive to think that the Zondo Report would change things. Even knowing South Africa very well, I am still a European and reason like one. Seeing how little has happened and how nothing seems to have changed is terribly disheartening. My heart is crying for you, South Africa!

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