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Which minister told former Eskom boss André de Ruyter, ‘you have to enable some people to eat a little bit’?

Which minister told former Eskom boss André de Ruyter, ‘you have to enable some people to eat a little bit’?
From left: Environment Minister Barbara Creecy. (Photo: Islam Safwat / Bloomberg via Getty Images) | Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan. (Photo: Guillem Sartorio / Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan and Environment Minister Barbara Creecy both deny it was them.

‘In order to pursue the greater good, you have to enable some people to eat a little bit,” is what Eskom’s former CEO, André de Ruyter, said a senior government minister had told him. He disclosed this during an interview with eNCA’s Annika Larsen, which revealed the extent to which State Capture is continuing at Eskom.

De Ruyter said he feared oversight and governance of the government’s $8.5-billion Just Energy Transition Investment Plan (JET-IP), which includes concessional loans, grants and other funds, would be watered down to allow political interests to take a cut from the world’s second-biggest transfer of green energy funding from the rich to the developing world.

Two Cabinet ministers who worked closely with De Ruyter have denied that it was they who made the remark.  The two are Minister of Public Enterprises, Pravin Gordhan, to whom De Ruyter reported, and Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, Barbara Creecy, who partnered with the former utility boss to negotiate the green transition mega deal at the COP27 meeting in Egypt last year.

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Gordhan told Newzroom Afrika that De Ruyter had spoken to him about corruption at Eskom. However, Gordhan’s aides denied that he had, in turn, told De Ruyter to expect some shrinkage.

“I don’t think that is the Minister’s language. PG (Pravin Gordhan) is not in any peripheral way involved with the JET-IP,” said one aide. The minister calls himself a “progressive pragmatist”, said the official, but he had a history of opposing corruption and his pragmatism did not include allowable corruption.

“Minister Pravin Gordhan would like to state for the record that he abhors corruption in all its manifestations and condemns it in the strongest terms,” said Public Enterprises spokesperson Richard Mantu.

“The Minister urges all South Africans, regardless of their positions in society, to distinguish between suspicion, rumour and evidence. We also know that state capture in the formal sense might have ended, but corruption is still a scourge we must eradicate from our entities and Eskom is no exception in this regard,” he said.

Barbara Creecy’s office said she couldn’t recall a discussion with De Ruyter that some people had to “eat” from the green energy investment programme.

“Minister Creecy doesn’t recall discussing Eskom and the governance of the $8.5-billion from the international partners with Mr De Ruyter. She remains strongly opposed to corruption,” said her spokesperson, Albi Modise.

She said the National Treasury had led and concluded loan negotiations with the French and German development banks.

“Currently, the Presidential Climate Commission is consulting stakeholders on the content of the investment plan and on issues relating to governance, implementation and accountability. The outcomes of these consultations will inform how the plan will be implemented and necessary governance arrangements established,” said Modise.

Countries that negotiated and will fund the plan are getting jittery at the lack of political commitment and the corruption allegations that have surfaced around the plan. They include the UK, Germany and France.

Daily Maverick’s Ethan van Diemen reported below on the groundbreaking and much-heralded plan.

What the world is learning from South Africa’s nascent Just Energy Transition Investment Plan

De Ruyter did not respond to a request for comment. DM

Explainer

Where does the philosophy of “some people must eat a little bit” come from?

If, like me, you cover politics, the line De Ruyter heard would be a phrase quite common in political circles, from the ANC to opposition parties which govern in cities like Johannesburg, where I live.

The genesis traces back to a story often told by government officials and politicians. It is of a post-colonial African country (variously Uganda, Kenya or even Nigeria) and its South East Asian counterpart (variously Malaysia or Singapore).

In the story, in the South East Asian country, the allowable rent to corruption or political office-bearers is 10%, but the infrastructure (usually a bridge) is still built. In Africa, the rent extraction is 90%, and the bridge is never made.

The lesson, by the storyteller, is that in the developing world, “some people must eat a little bit”. It’s a version of this story that De Ruyter heard, and he was shocked, he told Larsen.

That story proves improbable in many African capitals, as fabulous infrastructure is rolled out. But in South Africa, we have now reached that point. The rent extraction is so extensive that the infrastructure does not get built at all, or does not function well for the cost.

The defective Medupi and Kusile power stations, for example, are a big part of why the high-stage power cuts are ruining South Africa. DM

Gallery
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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • virginia crawford says:

    So Mr Gordhan abhors corruption, does he? Yet he is surrounded by corrupt people – is it a variation of hate the sin, not the sinner? I admired Mr Gordhan long ago, but not anymore – he is tainted by the company he keeps.

    • Ivan van Heerden says:

      I agree 100% I met him once and thanked him for his stand on corruption in the face of the Zupta lynch mob. Now I would ask him how he sleeps at night.

      They all know who the corrupt people are and by remaining silent they are as guilty as those feeding at the trough.

  • Andrew W says:

    My money would be on Greedy. That man makes JZ look like an amateur

  • Gloria Greyvenstein says:

    SA could be a thriving country were it not for a few that have eaten, no gorged themselves. Point in question, a bridge project beween George and Mossel Bay, many millions and years later this construction lies dormant, half built, I guess someone is feasting.

  • Alley Cat says:

    Also fascinates me that these ministers do not comment directly? If they are so adamantly against corruption, why do they not speak directly instead of “speaking” through their spokespeople? And when a person says they can’t recall certain discussions, that is not a denial, it is obfuscation!!!

  • Peter Oosthuizen says:

    Neither Creecy nor Gordhan have the integrity to resign from this government as the should if they’re as honest as they maintain they are.

  • Martin Nicol says:

    “It’s our turn to eat” is the title of an excellent book on corruption in Kenya by Michaela Wrong (2009). In 2019, Prof Karl von Holdt published a study on ‘The political economy of corruption’ focussing on South Africa, and the ANC. He mused about the possibility of some form of “Managed Corruption”. “For example one could imagine an understanding that while kickbacks and inflation of tender contracts are permitted, these should not exceed something like 10%, and would be expected to deliver a reasonably good quality public infrastructure or service. Any failure to do this would be punished” (page 21)

    • Willem Boshoff says:

      The concept of “its our turn to eat”, and various spin-offs, permeate South African society. Much of it hinges on a sense of victimhood due to the legacy of colonialism and apartheid; the unresolved “land issue” etc. There is a worrying amount of criminal celebrities on social media – gangsters indulging in conspicuous consumption and showing off with their ill-gotten gains with sizable followings. The rot is deeper and more widespread than the ANC; it manifests in every sphere of national and regional government as well as businesses and communities; it is a national crisis. We need to talk more openly about South Africans embracing and celebrating criminality. Just focusing on the ANC is going to leave us with more pain for decades.

  • Alan Watkins says:

    “Two Cabinet ministers who worked closely with De Ruyter have denied that it was they who made the remark. ”

    But look at the wording and in one case the third party confirmation. Very carefully worded and not emphatic.

  • William Kelly says:

    Excellent. So now I can pay 10% less tax then.

  • Sam Shu says:

    In Asia (and in every country in the world), those in government make sure to take the odd golden egg. In South Africa, our government is sitting around the braai pit eating the golden goose. Even our corruption is incompetent

  • Chantal Smuts says:

    “I don’t think …” and “can’t recall” are both pretty damning. No emphatic “absolutely not”.

  • Ernest Esterhuizen says:

    Gwedi Mantashe once said on television that “We did not struggle to be poor.” That is exactly what they have ensured. With the latest revelations, it now makes sense why he has been insisting that Eskom falls under his portfolio and why he has consistently been gunning for De Ruyter publicly. Gordhan in turn knew why he urged people to connect the dots – to take focus off himself and cover his own backside. I believe that the biggest stumbling block to dealing correctly with the cartel revelations is going to be Cyril.

    • Stuart Orr says:

      A conspiracy theorist would say that Gweezy has created/caused the breakdown of Eskom in order to declare the State of disaster in order to enable the Karpowerships deal to be done as he will directly prosper from the deal

  • Michael Hayman says:

    What a disgusting bunch of politicians we have. Almost every one in their positions owing a favour to one of their cronies so none will step out of line.

  • LEON WASSERFALL says:

    That remains the legacy of the ANC and the hordes of cadres feasting of the economy, they eat and gorge themselves to the point of bursting, of the food they did not make or even cultivated or by any means earned, not able or willing to catch the proverbial fish, while they can steal from others.

  • Carol Stewart says:

    Usually ‘I don’t recall that conversation’ is a dead giveaway…

    • Jon Quirk says:

      Translation – “I certainly know it to be the case, but I’m pretty certain I have never been fool enough to say it, on camera, in public, because then I would have been fired”.

  • Rory Short says:

    The ANC’s political cry for freedom actually also carried a hidden message of, freedom to steal from the public purse.

    • Claerwen Howie says:

      De Ruyter’s book – Truth to Power – should be mandatory reading for ALL South Africans. The contents are truly terrifying.

  • Kerry van Schalkwyk says:

    Why is it that these ANC Ministers always have selective memories? Funny how they can never ‘recall’ any conversations that would implicate them. They are all so rotten to the core, without any conscience, that they started believing their lies years ago. State Capture is not over by any means, the looting & corruption just continues on a grander scale without the lable of ‘State Capture’. PG sat in his Communist Ivory tower while his comrades looted & pillaged this country & then professed to be anti-corruption & that he had no idea what was going on (just like his comrade Ramauseless). They are all complicit & should be tried for crimes against humanity – orange overalls for all of them. Let us start again with a clean slate & build this country up to where it could be & try to forget that the ANC ever existed.

  • Deirdre Lubbe says:

    Have often wondered if the presidency or any of the ministers have attempted get the details …. if not, why?

  • Kevin Busby says:

    Cry the beloved country. The late Alan Paton must be spinning in his grave instead of resting in peace. Makes one proud to be a South African…..just saying

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