Cape Town - Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan shifted the blame to former Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter, accusing him of utilising “swart gevaar” tactics, while entrusted to address the country’s energy crisis.
Gordhan told MPs in the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) that De Ruyter did himself a disservice in how his term ended at the embattled power utility. He was invited to brief Scopa regarding De Ruyter’s allegations of corruption, theft, maladministration, sabotage and financial irregularities, among other things.
“The way he ended his term, I don’t think it did him any favours in terms of his reputation. Except for those who think here we have a whistle-blower.
He’s not a whistle-blower. He was the head of an institution. Nor is he a messenger.
“Who are you sending the message to? You’re basically looking in the mirror and sending a message. If you have the humility, you’ll be able to get your own message,” Gordhan said.
“There is only one hero, given the (ENCA) interview. You could have had a technical interview, (and say) ‘this is what I was able to do, this I was not able to do. I hoped I could have left the institution better in respect of ABC, demonstrating a measured approach and exit nature’. Here you have to utilise ‘swart gevaar’ tactics,” Gordhan said.
Gordhan, who also referred to De Ruyter as a “lone ranger” during proceedings, said he was "not on trial".
“On one hand you have a couple of years of law enforcement not doing enough, on the other hand law enforcement trying to find out what you are saying and… you refuse to cooperate, I suppose (that’s) what melodrama is about and all of us fall for it.”
De Ruyter accused Gordhan of micromanagement.
The minister blamed next year’s upcoming national elections for “fake political narratives” and “character assassinations” but called for politics to be put aside, saying the consequences of load shedding should be “a mobilising factor”.
“I’m not going to implicate or smear the reputations of others without credible evidence and verifiable evidence being provided.”
DA MP Benedicta van Minnen said Gordhan “passes the accountability torch”.
“During (the) briefing by Minister Pravin Gordhan... a disturbing narrative has resurfaced, characterised by evasion and the marginalisation of André de Ruyter. It clouds critical issues and perpetuates a culture of impunity.
“Reflecting on Gordhan's assertion directed at de Ruyter - “if you are in charge, you are in charge, the buck stops with you” - it appears that the Minister himself is losing sight of this principle. This departure is particularly concerning, given his role as the primary stakeholder in Eskom.
This obfuscation on matters of grave public concern not only contradicts his ethos but also undermines the governance of critical state-owned enterprises.”
“Amidst the ongoing load shedding crisis it is bewildering to observe the persistent evasiveness among key role-players.”
Scopa chairperson Mkhuleko Hlengwa expressed concern over the intelligence report commissioned by De Ruyter, alleging that powerful cartels controlled Eskom, including two high-ranking government officials, who Gordhan said he had no knowledge of.
“I feel... the country and ourselves (are) being thrown into a ping-pong match. The CEO (is) saying I sent this info to these people, the minister is saying that whatever he said he must bring the proof. As things stand now, there’s nothing on the table which says the allegations that were made by the CEO of Eskom were pursued.
“It cannot be that an SOE will be investigated, with intelligence gathering around it with private funding, (and) up to now the report is illusive. Who it implicates, we don’t know, because it’s not our money. This (investigation) touched key strategic space which is Eskom. What did they do with that information?”
ANC MP Alexandra Jennifer Beukes said: “It boils down to Eskom collapsing, based on officials who don’t know what to do. It is embarrassing for the current government.”
Eskom is expected to host a state of system briefing on Thursday.