MPs rap Eskom brass on the knuckles for forcing De Ruyter out instead of probing claims

But Scopa chairperson Mkhuleko Hlengwa took issue with the manner in which Eskom had dealt with its former CEO, André De Ruyter. File photo

But Scopa chairperson Mkhuleko Hlengwa took issue with the manner in which Eskom had dealt with its former CEO, André De Ruyter. File photo

Published May 11, 2023


South African lawmakers have hauled Eskom’s top brass over the coals for failing to investigate serious wrongdoing, fraud and corruption at the power utility, following allegations made by former group CEO, André de Ruyter.

De Ruyter deposed an affidavit to Parliament last month, formally stating his televised allegations of corruption amounting to R1 billion a month at Eskom by at least four politically connected cartels.

Eskom chairperson Mpho Makwana told Parliament’s standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) yesterday, that the board had convened a special meeting with De Ruyter to discuss his shocking allegations and their impact.

He said the board was of the view that some of the utterances De Ruyter made had brought the utility into disrepute, and that the board had resolved to agree to the variation of his notice period.

“A good number of the allegations misled the public as if there were new developments that had been shared firstly with the board, and that was not the case,” Makwana said.

“Second, it would have misled the public by indicating that no action was taken internally by Eskom and all concerned,” he added.

But Scopa chairperson Mkhuleko Hlengwa took issue with the manner in which Eskom had dealt with De Ruyter, bringing forward his notice period by a month, and releasing him from his duties.

“Were you not interested in finding out more information about these organised syndicates killing people every day in Mpumalanga from Mr de Ruyter?” Hlengwa asked.

“Here’s your CEO going publicly making these allegations and the default position is to resign him. He was fired, that’s what it is, but that’s the board’s decision. But the issue is did you test the allegations that he made?”

Makwana replied that Eskom’s internal state capture and corruption task team was tasked with investigating the information that flowed from the assertions made by De Ruyter.

Further, he said they had resolved to have a legal independent panel appointed, headed by a retired judge to guide the board independently on the appropriate execution of its fiduciary duties, and its responsibilities in this regard.

“Since the establishment of that state capture task team, a lot of disciplinary hearings have occurred inside Eskom. In the public domain, it is known that in the period around late September or mid-October, 26 former executives – including a former acting CEO of Eskom – were arrested and appeared in court in relation to the allegations,” he said.

“When Eskom made a statement that there was nothing new, it was because these matters were already in court, with regard to the 26 executives arrested,” Makwana said.

In a presentation, Eskom’s chief transmission executive Segomoco Scheepers detailed all the gains they had made in dealing with procurement irregularities such as clamping down on excessive use of “free text” within the SAP system.

Scheepers said some irregularities relating to warehouse management had resulted in the culprits being tracked and criminally charged, and they were observing year-on-year improvements in inventory write-offs.

With regard to inventory corruption, fuel oil theft, and non-technical losses due to electricity theft, he said they were making strides as they had reduced fuel oil expenditure at Tutuka power station by R100 million per month.

Even though Eskom said the current executive was not aware nor involved in the controversial privately funded investigation by third parties sanctioned by De Ruyter, former board chairperson Malegapuru Makgoba confirmed knowing about the investigation.

Makgoba said the probe that De Ruyter undertook was an operational matter because Eskom at the time was besieged with sabotage and corruption, while failing to make headway with law enforcement agencies.

As an example, he cited one or two meetings that De Ruyter had with the former head of the National Prosecuting Authority’s Investigating Directorate advocate Hermione Cronje where concerns were raised about the lack of progress.

“The Hawks were not doing what they were supposed to. Not that they were not investigating, but they were just taking too long, almost lackadaisical about what needed to be done while Rome was burning,” Makgoba said.

“And this was repeating itself in a number of ways around cases that were being reported either to the SAPS and to the Hawks, with very little action.

“And as the board, we were concerned that our crown in the jewel was being destroyed when we had a security cluster that seemed to be asleep, and these were matters of grave concern,” he said.