Business Maverick


Business Leadership South Africa defends R18m support for Eskom corruption probe

Business Leadership South Africa defends R18m support for Eskom corruption probe
From left: Former Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter. (Photo: Freddy Mavunda / Financial Mail) | Former police commissioner George Fivaz. (Photo: Supplied) | Matimba coal-fired power station in Lephalale. (Photo: Waldo Swiegers / Bloomberg via Getty Images) | Business Leadership South Africa CEO Busisiwe Mavuso. (Photo: Masi Losi)

The business organisation said the corruption investigation into Eskom by George Fivaz Forensic and Risk has ‘led to some successes’, resulting in 43 people being arrested for various crimes, disruption to coal syndicates and the recovery of ‘millions of rands’ from dodgy contracts.

Business Leadership South Africa (BLSA) has doubled down on defending its decision to mobilise funding for an initiative that reportedly probed high-level corruption at Eskom, saying this was part of its “normal” function of helping to “build a capable state”.

Criticism has been growing around BLSA’s decision to secure funding worth R18-million for a “risk assessment” at Eskom that was aimed at supporting the work of law enforcement authorities.

At the end of 2021, former Eskom CEO André de Ruyter approached BLSA CEO Busi Mavuso with a request for funding for a “risk assessment” or corruption investigation that would be led by George Fivaz Forensic and Risk (GFFR), a firm owned by former police commissioner George Fivaz. At the time of GFFR’s appointment, Mavuso was also an Eskom board member.

It was subsequently reported by investigative journalist Jacques Pauw on News24 that former apartheid operative Tony Oosthuizen was involved in GFFR’s “risk assessment” at Eskom.

Read the News24 article here: ESKOM DIRTY DOSSIER | Revealed: Apartheid spook behind De Ruyter’s R50m off-the-books Project Ostrich | News24 

It was also claimed by Pauw that the reports produced by Oosthuizen contained untested information about coal syndicates at Eskom that were devoid of useful information and were riddled with conspiracy theories. 

BLSA’s funding of the “risk assessment” at Eskom has raised concerns that a business organisation whose members include private sector companies provided funding to a state-owned entity to unearth corruption at its operations. 

There are also concerns that a potential conflict of interest may have arisen when Mavuso, who at the time had the dual role of Eskom board member and BLSA CEO, helped to mobilise funding for the “risk assessment” by GFFR.

During a press briefing on Thursday, Mavuso said the decision to provide funding to Eskom was not “single-handedly approved” by her, but was also endorsed by BLSA’s board, chaired by Nonkululeko Nyembezi.

It’s not clear whether all board members agreed on the decision to provide funding for the Eskom investigation. Mavuso only said there was “wide board support” for the decision.

There are also concerns that this initiative was a clandestine one – going undeclared through Eskom’s official procurement channels since GFFR was not among Eskom’s approved service providers.

‘Valuable information’

Mavuso defended BLSA’s decision, saying she believes the organisation did the right thing and that valuable information was gathered from GFFR’s “risk assessment.”

Mavuso was joined at the press briefing by Cas Coovadia, CEO of Business Unity SA, which has a membership affiliation with BLSA.

Mavuso said the work by GFFR has “led to some successes” resulting in 43 people being arrested for various crimes related to Eskom’s affairs, disruption to coal syndicates, and the recovery of “millions of rands” from sullied contracts, as highlighted by President Cyril Ramaphosa during his State of the Nation speech in February. She also said BLSA providing financial support to corruption-busting initiatives was part of the business organisation’s “normal activities”.

“Our scope is to provide funding, technical and other forms of support to reduce the impact of corruption on business in SA and society and achieve socioeconomic growth. We have a business against crime initiative,” said Mavuso.

Mavuso and Coovadia said they stood behind GFFR’s work, which would kickstart the process of law enforcement authorities further investigating the corruption at Eskom, with a view to prosecuting the wrongdoers.

‘Shocked and dismayed’

Mavuso said that BLSA was “shocked and dismayed” to learn that an individual (referring to Oosthuizen without naming him) with a “tainted history” had been involved in GFFR’s work, and that BLSA did not support the appointment of such people.

“If we had known about the individual, we would not have allowed the person to participate in the risk assessment work,” she said.

Mavuso said BLSA had no say in the appointment of GFFR or the individuals involved in the firm. Mavuso added that De Ruyter had selected GFFR for the job.

However, “to simply dismiss the detailed intelligence-gathering on the basis that one cog in the investigative process has a racist and reactionary history is neither logical nor fair,” she added.

About the veracity of the information uncovered by GFFR’s work and the report it compiled, Coovadia said: “From what we have seen, the report does not have any of the sensationalist stuff that is in the public domain. From what we have seen, there have been a lot of positive outcomes from this report.

“It was always our understanding that the work we were asked to fund would – on the basis of information the CEO of Eskom had about corruption and sabotage – try to uncover that and connect the dots and then make it available to the authorities to decide whether they want to act on it… And we believe that has happened to a certain extent.” DM/BM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Sam van Coller says:

    There are two key questions. Did BLSA and BUSA clear this with the relevant Minister? Were they aware that the investigation would be done by former apartheid security operatives? If the answer to the first is negative and they went behind the Minister’s back, they have done serious damage to the standing of business representation organizations. If business organizations are to achieve results in their representations to government, it is critical that their integrity and professionalism is of the highest order no matter how much the government is out of order on its side of the equation. Trying to justify their action by claiming 43 successful prosecutions is irrelevant. Either way on the second question indicates an irresponsibility in accounting for the use of member funds. To use former apartheid security operatives to investigate a government organization reflects an incredible lack of understanding of our country’s history. It seems the country’s leadership problems are not reserved for political parties.

    • Ludwig Braum says:

      what a nonsense. First, the relevant minister probably is part of the problem. Asking for his authorization would make the whole thing a farce. Second, it was one person with a doubtful background, not the whole team. Your exaggerations make the motivation for your comment – doubtful.

      • Sam van Coller says:

        Business has consistently sat on its hands as South Africa has started the steep descent into becoming a failed state. R5 billion disappears from the National Skills Fund which we as businesses have funded and business does nothing as one example. When the invitation to business to submit proposals to a national social compact was made, the proposals from business were so narrowly self-interest seeking the project fell flat. Business continually ignores the massive failure of our national education though they complain about not being allowed to import skills from abroad. Irrespective of the highly probable incompetence of the Minister, it is not smart to go behind his back and then later in negotiations expect Ministers to trust you. The security firm was owned by a former senior police official under the Apartheid Government. From a political sensitivity point of view, this was not smart. Business leadership has the potential capacity and knowhow to play a much more significant and positive ‘political’ role in saving South Africa than paying for a secret security investigation of a government institution and then not even knowing who was doing the investigation.

    • Rowan G says:

      “Did BLSA and BUSA clear this with the relevant Minister?”

      Why would they do that when they know the ministers are involved with the problems going on at Eskom?

    • Carsten Rasch says:

      Your outrage is misplaced. Here’s two more questions – if something in your house breaks and you phone someone to fix it, do you vet who they send out to fix it? Secondly, what would you do if people keep on breaking into your house, and you keep on phoning the cops, and nobody comes?

      • Sam van Coller says:

        Because an ongoing relationship of trust between government and business is critical to the future of the country. Two wrongs don’t make a right. Business can have much more impact if its actions are transparent

  • Miles Japhet says:

    Some missteps here, but an indication of the failure of our Police and the NPA to successfully investigate and prosecute those who plunder.
    Some important protocol to be observed in future, but well done BLSA.

  • Vas K says:

    Am I the only one who can see the irony of all this? An individual with “tainted” history is now being used to doubt the integrity of the investigation which uncovered the not just “tainted” but currently criminal officials. I still have to learn exactly what are Mr. Oosthuizen’s sins but playing the “tainted history” card is down there with the last resort race card. If it isn’t, then the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was just a joke. I will rather have Mr. Oosthuizen involved than the corrupt and inapt police who will never investigate their comrades-in-crime.

  • Carsten Rasch says:

    Exactly who is criticising and complaining? I can only guess, and wish to remind those living in glass ensconced bubbles that throwing those stones might just come back and shatter your dreams of governing ‘till Jesus comes.

  • Neil Parker says:

    I can’t say I am particularly impressed with discredited (see DM Feb 2021) journalist Mr Jacques Pauw’s report on “Project Ostrich” – where did that name come from ? George Fivaz was an “apartheid era” cop. So too for that matter was Piet Byleveld. The police service did not magically change “overnight” in 1994 whereby apartheid era policemen instantly disappeared. So how exactly is a “racist apartheid operative” now defined other than by sensationalist type finger pointing from Jacques Pauw ? Then there was a “clandestine investigation” – another cherry-picked and misleading phrase. Investigations into criminal activities do no normally trumpet themselves. That does not make them “clandestine”. Andre de Ruyter “colluded with” BLSA. He may well have held consultations to deal with rampant corruption. Finally there was apparently an “agenda of renewables” as if that were a particularly heinous crime. The language used to attack de Ruyter and BLSA reeks of snyde Bell-Pottinger style junk rhetoric. In light of which we must further question the claim that the reports from GFFR were “riddled with conspiracy theories”. Good choice of words just like the “agenda of renewables” !

    • William Stucke says:

      “George Fivaz was an “apartheid era” cop.” True. So what? As Marianne Thamm says in her article yesterday: “Nelson Mandela trusted Fivaz, who was one of the good guys, as the country’s first National Commissioner of Police in 1995. Reconciliation and all that.”

      There’s way too much ad hominin stuff on this entire subject, and the meat of the matter is being ignored.

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