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Resistance and lack of coordination in government allow continued corruption at Eskom, says retired SAPS brigadier

Resistance and lack of coordination in government allow continued corruption at Eskom, says retired SAPS brigadier
Illustrative image | Sources from left: Retired Brigadier Jap Burger. (Screenshot: YouTube) | Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan. (Photo: Waldo Swiegers / Bloomberg via Getty Images) | Former Eskom CEO André de Ruyter. (Photo: Gallo Images / Phil Magakoe) | SAPS Commissioner Fannie Masemola. (Photo: Gallo Images / Deaan Vivier) | Vapour from cooling towers of the Eskom Matla coal-fired power station in Mpumalanga. (Photo: Waldo Swiegers / Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Chasing runners instead of kingpins and focusing on dockets for numbers presented at oversight briefings won’t solve the corruption at Eskom or anywhere else, retired SAPS brigadier Jap Burger told MPs on Wednesday.

‘You can have a lot of complaints… where you go after runners, and you catch the guy with the sack of coals that was stolen… We don’t move up to the orchestrators or the kingpins,” the retired police officer testified before Parliament’s public spending watchdog, the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa).

“People can come here (and) quote thousands of cases. Are they addressing the problem? No, they are not. We are not going to win the fight against corruption in this way.”

Jap Burger, recently retired from the SAPS, was subpoenaed to appear before Parliament’s spending watchdog, Scopa. He had failed to honour previous invitations to Scopa’s probe into ex-Eskom CEO André de Ruyter’s claims of embedded malfeasance.

De Ruyter’s televised interview in late February sparked a political storm – from threats of legal action over claimed political connectivity in the looting, to Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan’s remarks critical of De Ruyter’s job performance that effectively signalled a breakdown between minister and CEO.

Running since late April when De Ruyter appeared before MPs, this Scopa inquiry has heard how De Ruyter had indeed informed police of Eskom corruption through SAPS national commissioner Lt-Gen Fannie Masemola, who appointed a liaison – that’s where Burger fits in – and confirmed the Hawks were investigating.

When Gordhan appeared before MPs in May, it was more about De Ruyter’s “messianic or heroic figure” tendencies than the looting claims, which were only raised “in passing” – and presidential national security adviser Sydney Mufamadi declined to say much, instead invoking national security considerations, but confirmed that De Ruyter’s briefing had enough substance to advise him to take it to the police.

‘Security cluster in dire straits’

On Wednesday, Burger’s testimony added details on vetting, the informal and uncorroborated information of the private investigation, and the State Security Agency’s non-role in the Eskom debacle – all speckled with sharp commentary on police and government failures on the State Capture and organised crime fronts.

“There is deliberate resistance and there is also a failure in the design of the government’s approach,” Burger told MPs, adding later, “The processes of government are not working. The processes of oversight are not working.”

And, apparently, botches happened right at the start of the SAPS’ involvement in the Eskom looting investigation saga.

In May or June 2022, the national police commissioner approached retired major-general Johan Booysen to head a task team. It didn’t happen then, but another outreach came in late June, according to Burger, when amid Stage 6 power cuts came “pressure from the Presidency… what is happening? Why are we having blackouts?”

When Booysen was again asked to help, he was about to go on a three-week overseas holiday and asked Masemola if Burger could assist instead. That was formalised a month later in August 2022, according to Burger.

Now in that liaison role, the then still serving brigadier held meetings with De Ruyter and the private company was provided with information – no final report as such was handed to him before he retired in June 2023 – and he also spoke to Mufamadi and Gordhan.

Attempting to “validate and corroborate” the information provided by the private investigators at Eskom, Burger approached the SSA.

“That’s where it was shut down… no cooperation,” he told MPs repeatedly. 

“It’s almost as if this is done on purpose to not have a full response by government,” he said, adding later, “Our security cluster is in dire straits. We are not doing what we are supposed to be doing.”

Burger took this to Mufamadi, telling him of the need for collective action under the National Security Council, and for a wide-ranging anti-corruption effort. 

The same information from the private Eskom investigators was handed to the Hawks – officially the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation – which investigated Eskom matters.

“I do not know whether they found any value in the information.”

State Capture ‘not a legacy thing’

When asked by ANC MPs if he didn’t think it was inappropriate for a private company to investigate the state-owned Eskom, Burger agreed.

Segue to De Ruyter’s lack of security vetting following his December 2019 appointment. When Burger raised this with Gordhan, he was told to sort it out between himself and De Ruyter.

“We are concerned about vetting. It remains an Achilles’ heel and it talks to a government not committed to its commitments,” said Scopa chairperson IFP MP Mkhuleko Hlengwa, noting that the Transnet CEO and chief financial officer had also left the state-owned logistics entity.

In 2014, the Cabinet decided all government appointees had to be security vetted. Cabinet statements that announce appointments talk of security vetting: “All appointments are subject to the verification of qualifications and relevant clearance.”

Eventually, De Ruyter’s security vetting finally got under way in late 2022, but documents were outstanding by the time De Ruyter resigned in December 2022, and were never handed in.

Crucially, the resignation signalled a break between De Ruyter and his political boss, Gordhan, who did not provide cover when his Cabinet colleague, Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe, accused De Ruyter and his executive of “agitating for the overthrow of the state”.

The incendiary comments came amid worsening rotational blackouts that left South Africans without electricity for up to 12 hours a day.

All of this predates the Scopa inquiry, but it signals the political dynamics at play over Eskom. Power cuts have seriously hampered South Africa’s economic growth. The governing ANC, alert to the 2024 elections in which pundits suggest it could lose dominance, has frequently promised an end to the power blackouts – initially by the end of 2023, although this deadline has since been extended.

Public criticism continues over the lack of prosecutions of high-profile people implicated in State Capture and corruption, even if prosecution and justice authorities maintain that such cases are before the courts.

“Everyone assumes State Capture is a legacy thing. No, it is not. Many of the organs (of state) have not yet been uncaptured. Their integrity has not been restored,” Burger told MPs. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Jacci Babich says:

    From Christians to Crooks – how the ANC have degenerated. A special kind of hell awaits the greedy, the self serving and all those involved in the vast criminal network they have created.

    • Pieter van de Venter says:

      I am not sure there were Christians between the ANC – This looting was planned in Maputo, Harare, Robbin Island and London long before February 1990. St Mandela was one of the first together with the old guard to be rewarded and bought expensive properties in Houghton.

      Then came the arms contracts. That was nothing but reward for supporting the ANC – or like Smuts put it – “he did not join the ANC to be poor”.

      I am sorry, but I do not believe these stories of people that walked on water for the people and the poorest of the poor. The current crop under writes it.

      • Gerrie Pretorius says:

        The story of the anc since day 1 – thieves feeding at whatever trough they could. Be it the ‘world’ believing they were “freedom fighters” (WMC), or currently the SA taxpayers and the poor and destitute of SA.

  • jcdville stormers says:

    The truth,digest it,start functioning,or fall at the elections Goverment(anc)

  • Denise Smit says:

    And now they will go after Burger instead of the kingpins and especially the ministers and politicians involved. No matter what anybody outside of the capture network has revealed.

  • Diana Clarke says:

    Same old, same old.
    Nothing has been and nothing will be done.
    Too many buddies profiteering

  • William Kelly says:

    The good Brigadier suffers from a case of stating the bloody obvious. But the voters will get what they vote for. Good and hard. So does it really matter what he states?

    • Paddy Ross says:

      Yes it does! The more this type of information is in the public domain the more likely the electorate is to become aware that it is a mafia organisation, not a political party, that is control of South Africa.

  • paul Volker says:

    Neither SAPS, SSA nor NPA have the stomach to take on the rotten ANC politicians who head up these corrupt syndicates. They prefer to get the runner with the bag of coal.

  • Wacky Me says:

    Is this why Mandela did not want to serve another term?……..

    • Pieter van de Venter says:

      No, Mandela had his house in Houghton and in the Eastern Cape and a nice fancy Mercedes donated by the workers together with a pension of a million or two a year after 9 years out of jail. Why bother working??

  • Peter Doble says:

    It is obvious that we are witnessing an ever decreasing circle. Tim Cohen’s piece on the Harvard report neatly sums it up – the ANC is systematically collapsing state capacity.

  • Henry Coppens says:

    Does anyone really expect the ANC big wigs to close their golden corruption troughs?

  • Phillip van der Westhuizen says:

    “Criminal” activity is ingrained in the ANC. Since it’s inception it had to lurk in the dark and commit criminal activities (to an extent understandable). But I feel that this culture is so ingrained that being against the government is still going on, even if they have the majority in government.

    I think Mandela understood this, but he came to power to late in life to change the ingrained culture.

  • Jeremy Stephenson says:

    This ANC-dominated government will always block any real attempt to deal with corruption that benefits its senior officials.

    This has been demonstrated countless times, and will continue to be true as long as the ANC has a hand in government.

  • D'Esprit Dan says:

    If anything, corruption has worsened since Ramaphosa came to power, and still nothing gets done. A quick question: is it a simple coincidence that the head of the State Security Agency resigned the day before Burger testified?

  • P C Hem says:

    Corruption, theft and violence is endemic and congenital in South Africa it would appear. It is virtually impossible to stop with the current status quo. The radical answer is unappealing, so it is almost certainly a fairly quick and painful decline for most industries and public services as we have seen with the railways.

  • Jimbo Smith says:

    And just where is Minister Sparky in all this mess? The extent of theft, corruption is truly breathtaking alongside a Govt incapable of comprehending the destruction of this energy crisis on the economy. Borders on treason!!

  • Grumpy Old Man says:

    We think of the ANC in completely the wrong way.
    It’s not an orgainisation in the traditional sense. One where you have someone in charge & where you have some kind of central authority & coherence
    What the ANC are is an ‘interest group’ where the peeps essentially do their own thing based primarily on self interest.
    Journalists can keep on chasing Eskom & Transnet stories but must realize they are focusing on the symptoms whilst failing to look for the actual cause.
    Indeed there are so many corruption stories that Eskom is actually becoming a convenient distraction for the ANC cos it’s taking everyone’s eyes from the ‘real issue’ which is the vast amounts of personal wealth accumulated by its members
    This is why when members of Patliament make their Declarations of Interest these need to be properly scrutinized. We are going to be talking about Eskom Cartels for the next 5 years & still be no closer to the truth. If however the focus turns to the personal member interests (the companies / trusts etc) we might then properly appreciate what state capture actually means & who the beneficiaries are

  • Neil Oberholzer says:

    Do the people in Government not realise that the Eskom failure will eventually lead to a failed state and their own demise!

  • Beyond Fedup says:

    It is the DNA of the anc – criminal, predatory, self-serving, rapacious and corrupt. They are masters of theft, misinformation, hypocrisy, destruction and breakage. They look after their own at the expense of the country, their interest above all and treasonous to boot. That folks, is who/what our government is and we continue voting for these scumbags and hyenas at our peril. Finish & klaar!

  • sollynakene says:

    Maybe what must happen is for the ANC to loose the majority and govern with other party or two.

  • Rae Earl says:

    Start at the top. Cyril Ramaphosa. If this was a case involving corruption in a business corporation the CEO and COO would force investigations and immediate corrective action would ensue. Ramaphosa’s lack of leadership and ongoing retention and support of known corrupt ministers in his cabinet indicates that he takes orders from them. The fact that his Minister of Police is a prime suspect in corruption at cabinet level and still retains his portfolio says it all. Beke Cele he has pulled the entire police force down to his level of corruption and SA citizens are paying dearly for this state of affairs. Voting this entire rotten enclave out of government next years has now become a glaring and urgent requirement or South Africa will continue on its downward slide and become a failed and broken country.

  • Yves Ducommun says:

    And the saga goes on…

  • Karan Thakor says:

    Aluta Continua (the looting continues……..) for now

  • Confucious Says says:

    And in other breaking news; water is wet!

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