Clock ticking on ANC charges against ex-Eskom CEO as party says it can’t act on rumours
The political sound and fury that erupted after ex-Eskom CEO André de Ruyter’s statement on continued looting at the power utility – with political connectivity – is being walked back. Except the line that, without De Ruyter going to the police, no steps can be taken.
The governing ANC’s seven-day deadline for former Eskom CEO André de Ruyter to lay charges with the police or face being charged himself, has come to an end. Or, if you’re counting in working days, ends this weekend.
Staying off the initial talk of ideological attacks and right-wing political agendas on 23 February, the ANC National Working Committee (NWC) – the structure in charge of the governing party’s day-to-day running – on Monday,27 February reiterated that De Ruyter would be charged if he has not gone to the police by the deadline “to allow law enforcement agencies to investigate, and where appropriate, to prosecute those who have a case to answer, including any ANC members or public representatives…”
Since that interview on eNCA, info on cartels – and politicians – operating at Eskom have emerged, as revealed by Daily Maverick’s Kevin Bloom.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Introducing the four crime cartels that have brought Eskom and South Africa to their knees
On Tuesday, Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan, in an interview with Newzroom Afrika, acknowledged that De Ruyter had spoken to him about the corruption. But, as minister, he could not act on “allusions around individuals”, “possible suspicions” or rumours.
Watch the clip below:
“De Ruyter should go to the police with details so the legal processes can unfold. “If he has the evidence, the Hawks are waiting for him,” Gordhan told Newzroom Afrika.
On Wednesday, the Presidency followed suit:
“The President does not respond to rumours and generic suggestion,” said presidential spokesperson Vincent Magwenya in a livestreamed briefing , adding, after repeated questioning:
“I struggle to understand the back and forth. André de Ruyter goes to a police station to lay a charge… If the SAPS do not take it up, then the President has a case to take to the police minister…”
Magwenya said everyone knew “what André (de Ruyter) has said is nothing new to the extent there is corruption”, and already security agencies were at Eskom in the form of an investigative task team through NatJoints (National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure) … “they are dealing with every aspect of wrongdoing”.
NatJoints brings together spooks, soldiers and police in a structure not established in law or regulations and that does not account publicly, not even to Parliament.
On Thursday, Minister in the Presidency Mondli Gungubele added his call to De Ruyter to go to the police, because even if these allegations had been made to Gordhan, they needed to be dealt with by “appropriate” structures – law enforcement.
“To be honest with you, we take seriously what the CEO has raised. But we also argue that a CEO can do better, because a CEO is put in a position of power to deal with these issues…”
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Like Gordhan on Tuesday, Gungubele said he had been at the sharp end of allegations and rumours, none of which were substantiated. It could not be that the “President must run” after rumours, the minister added.
Thus the need for De Ruyter to go to the police, effectively turning him into something of a whistle-blower, even as it publicly emerged that there are already active investigations into – depending on who is asked – scores or thousands of dockets.
Effectively, it seems what stung were the un-PC political statements implicating the governing party, again, in dodgy dealings, and not so much the corruption itself.
State Capture-style dismissiveness
The official insistence that nothing could be done unless and until charges were laid with police is a nod to legal compliance. Yet it echoes ministers and MPs during the State Capture years dismissing what was public as rumours – at least until the 2017 #GuptaLeaks emails.
And the Zondo State Capture commission, in both testimony and final reports, is insightful of such attitudes.
This includes ex-National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete testifying “the fact that the NEC was told something, in fact, just gives it the status of a rumour”, after the now Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula told the governing party’s National Executive Committee in 2011 how the Guptas had congratulated him on becoming minister before he even knew about the appointment.
Or the ex-chairperson of Parliament’s spending watchdog, the Standing Committee on Public Accounts, Themba Godi, testifying:
“In a system where one political party dominates, the extent to which oversight will be effective depends on the internal dynamics of that party.”
Or Zukiswa Rantho, the now ex-ANC MP who chaired the parliamentary Eskom State Capture inquiry, testifying how, despite an institutional directive to probe State Capture, “it was a great risk we were taking as there was a divided caucus…”
Read more in Daily Maverick: “When politics collides with constitutional responsibilities of oversight — and billions are looted”
President Cyril Ramaphosa acknowledged initial inertia in his testimony in April 2021:
“That there was not much movement, we concede. When it was clear the evidence was just accumulated, the thinking was to investigate them through the law enforcement agencies… In the end, the parliamentary track was activated.”
Read more in Daily Maverick: “Ramaphosa pushes party line in parliamentary oversight — but Zondo isn’t buying it”
The State Capture report says billions of rands could have been saved if Parliament had acted earlier. By March 2016, if not already by 2013, “no sensible Member of Parliament could have disputed that there were serious allegations…”
Read more in Daily Maverick: “Parliament between the cracks of political will and constitutional duties – must do better”
It is against this backdrop – and the rotational power cuts that in 2023 have so far left homes and businesses without power for up to 10 hours every day – that De Ruyter’s statements come.
On Thursday, in the parliamentary mini debate on the electricity National State of Disaster and yet-to-be-appointed electricity minister, the ANC’s public enterprises committee chairperson, Khaya Magaxa, said De Ruyter’s claims would not be responded to “until he reported to the police, including accounting to the same portfolio committees”.
Earlier, opposition speakers in this ACDP-sponsored discussion raised concern about ongoing corruption at Eskom, and how this could be exacerbated during a state of disaster similar to the Covid lockdown personal protective equipment tender scandals.
On Wednesday, Magaxa had wanted to invite “the outgoing” De Ruyter to the public enterprises committee to tell MPs about his statements, when fellow ANC MP, Carol Phiri, said she had “read somewhere” that the CEO was gone, asking whether calling De Ruyter now was not exceeding the committee’s mandate as “we are not an inquiry”.
Watch the meeting below:
Magaxa was adamant that the committee could call anyone, any time, “Whether he’s left or not, we will have to call him…”
It remains to be seen whether that happens – and what transpires about the claims of sustained, orchestrated and cartel-driven corruption at Eskom during these times of rolling blackouts. DM