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Sidestepping questions, Gordhan lashes De Ruyter for ‘messianic and hero figure’ tendencies

Sidestepping questions, Gordhan lashes De Ruyter for ‘messianic and hero figure’ tendencies
Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan during the meeting of Parliament’s public spending watchdog, the Standing Committee on Public Accounts on Wednesday, 17 May 2023. (Photo: Gallo Images / Brenton Geach)

Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan hit back at former Eskom boss André de Ruyter, who has claimed that senior politicians were involved in corruption at the state power utility. The minister said the ex-CEO was noteworthy for breaking his employment contract confidentiality clause, and ‘taking the country back to swart gevaar’.

Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan deftly sidestepped questions about:

  • What he’d done when told the names of the “high-ranking politicians” involved in Eskom corruption – nothing, as “no evidence” was proffered;
  • A privately funded intelligence investigation into corruption at Eskom – nothing, because he was only “told in passing” about it; and
  • Pinpointing the whereabouts of that investigation’s report(s) – nothing, as much “other work” had to be done.

“Without tangible evidence that will withstand judicial scrutiny, there is no point speculating who these politicians may be… I am not going to smear the reputation of others without credible evidence and verifiable facts provided,” Gordhan told Parliament’s public spending watchdog, the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa), on Wednesday.

That included not approaching President Cyril Ramaphosa, who has told Parliament in person and in a written reply he had not been informed about the “high-ranking politicians” involved in Eskom corruption.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Gordhan must shed light on allegations of corruption at Eskom when he appears before Scopa

Instead, De Ruyter became the focus.

“That he [De Ruyter] signed [the CEO contract] as self-proclaimed champion of corporate governance and the only person in town who understands the role of various institutions and people,” only to contravene the confidentiality clause was noteworthy, said Gordhan.

“In no big institution like Eskom, or the private sector, would you have a CEO, who has left for whatever reason… writing chapter and verse about events that have been taking place in the company itself.

“[He’s] taken the country back to swart gevaar tactics by labelling all of us as communists, as people who are mindless, as people for whom the hammer and sickle must be drawn in our parking bays, which is the worst insult that anyone can cast on South Africans, who want this country to work, who want Eskom to work, who want load shedding to end and who want to mobilise capacity within Eskom, within government and within society in order to make sure the right things are done.”

Swart gevaar tactics were used by the apartheid regime in the 1980s as propaganda to stir white fears against black majority rule and to increase the repression of activists.

2024 on their minds

The often terse ministerial commentary about De Ruyter underscored how the ex-CEO’s statements, amid what’s now dubbed State Capture 2.0, hit a political nerve of the governing ANC.

The rolling blackouts that have left South Africans without power for up to 11½ hours a day come as the 2024 elections loom against the waning electoral fortunes of the party that has controlled national government since 1994. Ending the intensity and frequency of these scheduled power cuts is a top government priority for 2023.

And while Gordhan called for the depoliticisation of the public debate, the fact that a landmark election is at most 15 months away is sharpening the politicking on both sides of the House. Exchanging political barbs has been on full display during budget vote debates.

Essentially, the De Ruyter/Eskom saga is about politics – the politics of a governing ANC at odds with itself amid proclamations of unity, the politics of vested interests and factional jockeying paralysing the government, policy implementation and the governance of South Africa, which despite being the most industrialised country in Africa is the most unequal in the world.

On Wednesday, Gordhan told MPs he was shocked by the e.tv interview De Ruyter gave on My Guest Tonight in late February that sparked the pushback from the ANC, including litigation currently under way for the ex-Eskom boss to withdraw his remarks about the ANC benefiting from corruption at the state power utility.

De Ruyter has followed up with a book, Truth to Power: My Three Years Inside Eskom in which he elaborates on corruption and sabotage at the power utility, criticises key ANC policies like black economic empowerment, and writes about meetings and incidents at work.

Gordhan, who described De Ruyter as a “know-all” and as making out he’s the “only hero in town”, didn’t mince his words to MPs.

“This egotistical trip that he is on at the moment is not serving him or the country in any positive way. Any notion that he has that he is this messianic or heroic figure that is going to, on the one hand, condemn all of us, but on the other hand be the saviour, but also take rather old-fashioned ideological positions in relation to both my organisation [the ANC], but others as well, is a misplaced area of focus on his part.”

For its part, Eskom was to the point on De Ruyter’s book.

“Eskom will review the contents of the book and comprehensively respond at an appropriate time. We continue to focus on the task at hand to recover generation performance, reduce load shedding and turn the organisation around,” the power utility said in a statement on Monday.

‘Nothing new’

Throughout Wednesday’s Scopa meeting Gordhan held the line that De Ruyter’s claims about corruption were nothing new. It’s a political response right from the start of this saga that still struggles to sidestep questions about why more was not done sooner.

Over the past few years, Eskom has regularly issued reports about the arrests of contractors, employees and others, and the Special Investigating Unit has regularly reported to MPs about its Eskom-related cases, from conflicts of interest to coal contracts and more.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Much of De Ruyter’s corruption claims not new and response to them is political posturing

This “nothing new” line did not quite cover the lackadaisical attitude of the police, Hawks and prosecution services. Not after earlier Scopa engagements over De Ruyter’s claims showed the SAPS knew of the privately funded, intelligence-driven investigation by mid-2022, as did the State Security Agency and, according to the SAPS, the Hawks too, although they denied this.

Read more in Daily Maverick: SAPS knew of private Eskom corruption probe while significant portions of De Ruyter statements corroborated

That “nothing new” line was held when DA MP Benedicta van Minnen asked whether the minister wasn’t shooting the messenger.

“This is not this poor little guy that’s being attacked… He goes into personal descriptions of all sorts, I hear. I haven’t read the book. Is that necessary?” said Gordhan who, nevertheless, seemed to know quite a bit about it.

“If you are in charge, you are in charge… The buck stops with you. If you are in charge you must show some sense of responsibility. If you have not achieved your mission, show some sense of remorse. ‘I’m sorry South Africa. I tried my best. I couldn’t do better. That’s what was required.”

“You don’t go around making allegations against people. That’s character assassination to defend yourself and some would say that’s narcissistic behaviour at the end of the day.”

Like discrediting a purveyor of uncomfortable truths, humbling oneself is one of those ANC traditions that continue to define it. It’s the ground zero for rehabilitation back into the governing party’s ranks.

On Wednesday, Gordhan was steadfastly dismissive of what he called the De Ruyter project and told MPs he’d done all that was necessary for the state power utility.

“I stand totally opposed to corruption. Where it was within my scope or ability to assist Eskom to combat corruption, I have done so,” proclaimed Gordhan. DM

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  • Eon van Wyk says:

    The reality is that Gordhan has let everyone down, especially the ones that stood up for him when he himself was in the hot seat.

    Gordhan and Ramaphosa are a dissapointment. There is no redemption nor any future for the ANC and these two cannot, or will not, accept it.

  • John Millar says:

    He lost a lot of credibility during his appearance on Eskom in my view. Nothing he says about the SAA deal can be believed either. Pity, I always that he was one of the better ones, but he has turned out to be the same…

    • Kanu Sukha says:

      There is a saying that you find out the real ‘character’ (not personality) of a person when the chips are down ! Here is an example of that on full display … the ‘organisation’ (and cadres) before the country ! The simple question is what has he ‘done’ (in real terms) in the time he has been minister of public enterprises, to ‘turn around’ the fortunes of eskom … beyond the so-called useless ‘unbundling’ of the entity which has made zero difference to our lived experiences of electrical supply & provision ?

  • Johan says:

    PG doth protest too much.

    • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

      Exactly.

      This comment “In no big institution like Eskom, or the private sector, would you have a CEO, who has left for whatever reason… writing chapter and verse about events that have been taking place in the company itself.” is so incredibly disingenous by Pravin Gordhan.

      That is because in no country in the world has the government, entrusted with power by the people, lied, stolen and destroyed so much so fast, with total disregard for the welfare of all its citizens.

      And in no company in the world would a CEO, on who’s shoulders ultimate responsibility rests, be more dis-empowered than you have ensured Andre de Ruyter was.

      As much as I hate to say this, you and your government are a disgrace. You have no honour, integrity, no pride, and you deserve no respect from anyone.

      I honestly think the country would get on better with just anarchy than it does under your farce of a government, so maybe you should all do everyone a favour and just pack your bags.

      Shame on you all.

  • Iam Fedup says:

    So, as expected, he took the coward’s way out. No surprise because even though he claims to be intelligent, he has prostituted himself to the other scoundrels in his party. Does he even realise the immense irony of his statement that “If you are in charge, you are in charge… The buck stops with you. If you are in charge you must show some sense of responsibility”? What have he and his fellow gangsters actually done to alleviate the situation. Sadly, most of our fellow citizens are unwilling or unable to see the manipulation by the rulers who more than 50% voted in. Do we have to end up with our faces in the gutter before we exercise our right to kick them out?

    • Eunice van Wyk says:

      The allegation that PG said words to the effect that “let them eat a little”, becomes more believable in the light of his description of “naughty activities” to cover fraud, corruption and theft at Eskom.

  • Miles Japhet says:

    The standard ANC response is denial, going on the attack and playing the race card.
    Gordhan, no one is fooled here. De Ruyter’s book simply underlines what we already know. Communist ideology coupled with socio economic engineering and a hollowing out of state institutions is the ANC’s ignoble “Project”. You and your fellow ANC leaders will be judged – the poor get poorer!

  • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

    Be a man Pravin – stop showboating and just tell the truth.

  • Robert Pegg says:

    Answers given by Minister Gorhan show how little control the ANC government has over SOE’s. His statement “If you are in charge, you are in charge… The buck stops with you. If you are in charge you must show some sense of responsibility. If you have not achieved your mission, show some sense of remorse”. This should apply to the ANC government and especially Minister Gordhan who is supposed to be the Minister responsible for Public Enterprises.

    • G M says:

      Considering the number of ministerial, parliamentary and ANC representatives who retain their positions despite having serious ethical scandals attached to them, Gordhan should have been too ashamed to say what he said today.

  • Lorinda Winter says:

    Eina Minister Gordhan, the truth hurts, doesn’t it!

  • virginia crawford says:

    Remember Pastor Jacob Zuma predicting that the ANC will rule ” until Jesus returns”? A mayor in Jhb who thinks his appointment was ” an act of God” – and yet it is de Ruyter that Pravin calls out for messianic tendencies. Ha! Easy to look like a “know it all” when surrounded by the ” know almost nothings”. Except the way to the trough.

    • Dan Bowskill says:

      There was a time when many thought that Cyril and Pravin were the best of the rotten lot in the ANC government. Sadly both have recently shown that to have been a mistake and that they are simply no better than the rest of the conniving mob of liars and cheats who call themselves a government.

      • Kanu Sukha says:

        They chose not to listen to the prognostications of Tutu and even Madiba (who was totally clear- eyed) about the future of an of an unethical/corrupt ANC !

  • Agf Agf says:

    “I haven’t read the book, should I”? And then goes on to deny everything in it.

  • Trevor Pope says:

    The whole chain of command failed to do their jobs – the Eskom chair, the Eskom board, PG and Cyril. This made it impossible for De Ruiter to succeed at his, and now they are trying to throw him under the bus.

  • Andrew Blaine says:

    He should change his given name to Pontius! But that would compromise his philosophy?

  • Joe Irwin says:

    What a disappointment this Pravin Gordhan interview was.
    Eskom being a state enterprise the buck stops with Mr Gordhan, not Mr De Ruyter. To not investigate or inform the president of what he was told is ridiculous.
    I await the excuses Mr Gordhan will have to convince us as more is highlighted over the coming months.

  • Grimalkin Joyce says:

    No, Pravin. Your shabby attempts to stir up more racial tension don’t cut it. It’s not Swart Gevaar, but ANC Gevaar. One thing unites us: lack of trust in our government.

  • R IA says:

    Some small voice inside me hoped Gordhan would take the opportunity to come clean and tell the whole truth, but it seems he’s as brainwashed as the rest of the ANC.

  • William Kelly says:

    What a muppet. Full of polyester stuffing and not much else. A child’s toy thing used in games being played by a mafia in total control.

  • Jeremy Stephenson says:

    True to form, the ANC is doing what it was castigated for doing during the state capture years, which is to refuse point blank to take action when confronted with evidence of corruption.

  • Confucious Says says:

    I’d take messianic and hero tendencies over criminality and incompetence every day of the week!!! Poor deflection from a once “trusted” minister!

  • Jennifer Hughes says:

    I’m afraid, Mr Gordhan, that my respect for you decreases with every new excuse. None of us laymen care about how CEOs should act or whatever loyalty has been expected but not delivered. We want our country back. We want our rainbow nation. We want hope for a bright future for everyone. We are tired of your excuses and passing of the buck. Do something that helps our nation or go away.

  • Mark Cowell says:

    So even Gordhan has been captured

  • Louise Wilkins says:

    The questions should be asked over and over until he stops sidestepping them. He MUST answer! He is nothing but a weak greedy idiot, just like the rest of the ANC. The DA HAS to find a way to reach the masses who still vote for them. Our beautiful country is teetering on the edge of a very dangerous abyss and could very well fall in. The anger among people is palatable.

  • Ludovici DIVES says:

    Much of which Mr. Gordhan says is true, sadly, he has however just proven again what a hypocrite he and the ANC are.

    How many times have the ANC repeatedly failed South Africa, their track record speaks for itself, to name a few.
    State Capture, Failed municipalities, Corruption, Health, Poverty, Eskom, Education, Pit latrines,
    Life Esidimeni, VBS Bank, and on and on, and on….

    And yet he has the gall to stand on his soap box and preach to us.

    “If you are in charge, you are in charge… The buck stops with you. If you are in charge you must show some sense of responsibility. If you have not achieved your mission, show some sense of remorse. ‘I’m sorry South Africa. I tried my best. I couldn’t do better. That’s what was required.

    • - Matt says:

      I agree that Gordhan has a point that in the absence of irrefutable proof he can’t besmirch colleagues. But I sincerely hope he didn’t do “nothing”.

      I am sadly left more and more with the agreement that the Nats were right in warning about black majority rule. The level of competence that we are getting from this government and the previous one under Zuma is probably on par with the level of education afforded to them by the Nats.

      • Michael Brand says:

        I accept that the education the Nats gave to us was sub – standard. I disagree that you draw a correlation that we are all incompetent to govern.

      • Derek Muller says:

        Zuma did not avail himself of Bantu Education and Pravin is a pharmacist. Therefore don’t blame the Nats in this instance.

      • Johann Olivier says:

        Ja, let’s not go there. The Nats did everything in their power to present us with less-than-prepared majority government. Even if South Africa were governed by the very smartest of folks – & sadly, clearly, this is not the case – there would be a massive experiential deficit. Start with Bantu “Education” – word used with overwhelming irony – then a refusal to integrate and have everyone working together. Simple setting people up to fail! Nah! The Nats have some real blame in this game.

  • Luis Bouca says:

    I had respect for Gordhan, but after his latest comments, I realized he is nothing more than just an ANC member, not a South African, it is a shame, and he has lost my respect.
    No one there,(ANC)can save us or repair what they have broken.

  • R S says:

    “I’m sorry South Africa. I tried my best. I couldn’t do better”.

    Adr had said this in numerous interviews while also explaining why his hands were tied.

    It seems Gordhan is not paying attention.

  • Robert Morgan says:

    The protestations of a man who thinks he is untouchable. A good hard forensic look into this turncoat’s finances would surely unearth all sorts of irregularities. I would look for large amounts spent on backbones and moral fibre. What a pathetic excuse for leadership.

  • John Miller says:

    It’s a “both can’t be right” scenario. Why not run a poll on whether your readers believe Mr. De Ruyter is lying or Mr. Gordhan is lying ? Politics aside, it’ll be interesting to see how your readers feel now that both De Ruyter and Gordhan have had their say.

  • nickha says:

    Smoke and mirrors! Really? I am astounded by the minister’s comments. He did not address the real issues at and only vilified De Ruiter to escape accountability.

  • Jane Crankshaw says:

    I suppose telling the truth in South Africa these days does make you a bit of a hero! Telling lies and being underhand with taxpayers contributions is pretty much normal in the eyes of our ANC government! How the mighty have fallen!

  • Bruce Q says:

    As usual, the ANC and their so-called leaders tap into the mass fear of Apartheid.
    It’s their only hope to obfuscate, and confuse the masses into believing in, and voting for them.
    They have to stay in power to stay out of jail.
    The ANC must go!

  • James Lang says:

    That is about all one would expect from spineless Gordhan

  • johanw773 says:

    I think the lady doth protest too much. Gordhan sounds like a schoolboy trying to shift blame from himself by throwing up clouds of verbal dust. What a plonker.

  • Barbara Mommen says:

    Methinks the gentleman doth protest too much. Deflections and counter deflections. Sad that Mr Gordhan has stooped so low.

  • Grumpy Old Man says:

    Three or four questions I would have liked to ask at Scopa yesterday (perhaps they were?)
    ADR claims in his book & in interviews to have held a Meeting (in a vacant office at Megawatt Park) with both Gordhan & Mufamadi at which time he supposedly said there are politicians involved & can I name them? Are ADR’s facts correct?
    Assuming these facts are correct why did both Ministers seek to be informed of ‘who was involved’ but then (a) did nothing about & (b) only later disavowed the report & source? In this regard it appears that both Ministers were ‘curious to know’ but on hearing the names mentioned determined them untouchable.
    Why was ADR asked to stay on if his performance fell below standard & why is his performance & charachter only being brought into question after he went Public?
    One final parting shot (& I still believe PG to be a good man) but isnt this the same Fellow who once asked us to ‘join the dots’? Did he perhaps mean we must join his dots cos it doesn’t seem to sit comfortably with him when we join our own

  • D'Esprit Dan says:

    Pravin: from hero to zero in two quick stages of load shedding. Won’t address the real issues raised, even after he insinuated back in 2017 that there was corruption at Eskom (which the rest of the country knew anyway – it’s run by the ANC, after all). Nope, just tetchy race cards and playground name calling. How sad. Really hope the ANC gets smashed to pieces next year.

  • Kenneth Southey says:

    The ANC legacy is going to be a nation of criminals and beggars.

  • Gazeley Walker says:

    Did Gorhan join any dots for anyone? From my perspective he tried to blur as many lines as possible between the dots of truth and fact. Did he actually say to Mafumedi , when given the names of the two politicians, “well it eventually had to come out”? If he did, then what more confirmation does he need to provide Scopa with the names? Why is the ANC suddenly more important to someone, who I previously felt was one of the good guys, than his duty to the entire population of South Africa, who all left to suffer because of his sudden lack of conviction and commitment to honesty.

  • Brian Doyle says:

    Gordhan has shown his true colours. Party first,Country second. He says he knew about the corruption at Eskom but had no concrete proof, well as responsible minister he should have acted, and not only now shoot the messenger. He still sits with no action plan to sort out the problems which have so clearly been set out in both De Ruyter’s interview and book.

  • Brad McWalter says:

    I also wouldn’t care what I said about my place of work if it was my place of work that allowed for my attempted murder. And that’s before considering all the other 60 million South African’s that are suffering due to nothing having been said by anyone before.

    I used to respect Gordhan.

  • Kanu Sukha says:

    Someone should explain to bra Pravin (sometimes affectionately called Jamnadas!) that the ‘swart gevaar’ is not the one he is referring to … but the one we all will be dumped into when eskom totally collapses … thanks to the ANC !

  • Patterson Alan John says:

    The simplicity of it all is to ask the question – Who is the honorable man with integrity and credibility?
    – Andre’ De Ruyter
    or
    – Pravin Gordhan

  • Patterson Alan John says:

    I’m sure that Andre’ De Ruyter is waiting for the muppets in nappies to throw their toys out of their cots and when they refuse to pick them up, let us all know who the two Ministers are, supported by folders full of facts from the special investigation.
    Revenge is a meal eaten slowly.

  • jcdville stormers says:

    Swallowed a cheap dictionary and now spewing trash

  • Lisbeth Scalabrini says:

    It is much easier to sling mud on De Ruyter, who wasn’t there to defend himself, instead of having to answer questions on your own questionable behaviour. Wasn’t the SCOPA supposed to investigate what Gordham had done or not done in relation to the ESKOM situation?

  • L Dennis says:

    Vow to you mr Gordan for calling evil good and good evil. For those who does wrong will receive the consequences of the wrong which they have done. Ill gotten gains never lasts.

  • J C says:

    ‘Tsek Pravin – you are just as gutless as Ramaphosa

  • Derek Jones says:

    And you are blameless hey? We do not believe anything you say Gordhan. You are a lying coward and useless at your job.

  • Gregory Michael Van Der Krol says:

    Gordhan has no credibility left. He has no back bone and will defend the ANC above all else, even his moral compass takes second place. He won’t tell the truth because it will damage the ANC as if the ANC’s reputation isn’t completely destroyed already. He protects the corrupt and then says he totally opposes corruption. I don’t believe a word this man says anymore. Sad, as I used to respect this man.

  • Grenville Wilson says:

    I don’t think that the honourable minister PG gets that the Buck stops with him, CR and the ANC. The Buck only stops when it gets to the top in the real world! Unfortunately we know that the ANC doesn’t work that way, there is no accountability!

  • Gerrie Pretorius says:

    pg has been in charge of all SOEs for quite some time. Every single one of them have gone down the tubes. Where does he come from with his dumb comments on AdR taking responsibility? What an absolute chop!? Just another anc cadre deployee making sure his ilk can continue feeding at the trough. No shame no remorse no accountability no morals, just feeding.

  • ssari says:

    Gordhan does exactly what he is accusing de Ruyter of doing: character assassination.
    If a whistle blower needs to write a book to get the evidence out, because his bosses ignored his briefings, then the bosses have to accept the flack that ensues.
    Gordhan has a big mouth but hasn’t shown any results in improving SOE’s.

  • Pet Bug says:

    Would be interesting if Jonathan Ancer and Chris Whitfield who wrote a glowing biography of Gordhan – “Join the Dots” (nogal), are checking their notes – and having to adjust some chapters.
    A updated and revised edition might well be in order.

    “Losing the Dots” or similar… anyone?

  • Ritchie Morris says:

    Min Gordhan should take a chill pill, which he may be more qualified at dispensing than running SOEs. Most gov SOEs are utter disasters due to incompetence and or fraud.

  • TREVOR FOX says:

    TLC – thieves, liars and cheats – the whole damned lot of them.

  • Harry.nieman says:

    In one fell swoop Pravin has obliterated his legacy

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