Andre de Ruyter, Group Chief Executive of state-owned power utility Eskom. REUTERS/Sumaya Hisham
Andre de Ruyter, Group Chief Executive of state-owned power utility Eskom. REUTERS/Sumaya Hisham

Eskom boss’s ’racist reign of terror’

By Staff Reporter Time of article published Feb 25, 2021

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THABO MAKWAKWA

Durban - AFTER a long battle between two executives, a twist arose when Eskom Group chief executive Andre De Ruyter suspended Solly Tshitangano, its chief procurement officer.

The conflict between the two apparently stemmed from Tshitangano's complaint about De Ruyter's alleged “racist handling of black officials and black suppliers who were subjected to continuous harassment” since De Ruyter joined Eskom as its chief executive.

However, Eskom spokesperson Sikonathi Mantshantsha said the move to suspend Tshitangano was due to his performance.

"Tshitangano has been placed on precautionary suspension pending a disciplinary process into his performance."

In letters seen by the Daily News, Tshitangano complained about De Ruyter’s conduct saying it undermined his authority as chief procurement officer.

Tshitangano’s concerns were mainly based on De Ruyter’s alleged “bias when dealing with black companies but afford leniency to white suppliers”.

Leaked letters and emails of interactions revealed an alleged “racist reign of terror” by De Ruyter. In two separate leaked letters and emails, Tshitangano complained of racism.

When asked about the matter, Tshitangano said he was not authorised to speak to the media on issues involving his employer, however, he would speak in due course. He also directed the Daily News to Mantshantsha .

Central to Tshitangano's complaint was how De Ruyter appeared to be hell-bent to “deal” with Econ Oil, the black owned-company that won the R5.2-billion duel supply contract.

A follow-up letter titled "Unequal treatment of suppliers in Eskom and undermining of supplier review committee and its chairperson '', Tshitangano pleaded for Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan's intervention.

Providing background, Tshitangano recalled how the story of Econ Oil "started in January 2020 when the head of legal and De Ruyter exchanged emails about the cancellation of a five-year bid/contract awarded which was awarded but cancelled by the board in 2020“.

A letter to the Eskom board chairperson Professor Malegapuru Makgoba revealed that six days after assuming office, De Ruyter immediately kick-started the process to cancel the contract.

De Ruyter appointed an ex-Sasol employee Werner Mouton to build up reasons why the bid should be cancelled. Mantshantsha defended the appointment of Mouton stating that the "procurement department did not have the required technical skills to evaluate the fuel oil contract".

According to documents, on January 29 last year, Mouton wanted a meeting set up with the Sasol team, one of the winning bidders, to "go through pricing formula“, including that of Econ Oil and FFS.

On the same date, an email by De Ruyter read: "Please revert to Econ, stating that the tender award has been delayed and that we are going to engage with the bidders."

Tshitangano alleged that De Ruyter further asked if Tshitangano "intended to issue a new tender, or to re-engage and push for lower prices".

During this time, De Ruyter apparently did not make any claims of corruption against Econ Oil until February 5 when Mouton prepared his report.

A day before the Mouton report, De Ruyter apparently pushed for "feedback on the cancellation of the tender".

Tshitangano stated in his email that De Ruyter was pressuring him and Bartlett Hewu (former head of legal) to manufacture reasons to cancel the fuel oil bid.

From the letters and communication, the Eskom board was requested to cancel the contract in March last year before any investigations were done or completed.

Replying to the removal of Econ Oil, Mantshantsha said: "Eskom will not hesitate to take action to safeguard its interests at any point should it be presented with credible evidence of wrongdoing against any supplier."

Tshitangano further stated in documents that a senior manager, Ben Theron, approached individuals in Commercial to assist with the investigation without producing any terms of reference for such an investigation.

By October, the law firm Bowmans and Gilfillal produced a forensic report commissioned by De Ruyter, despite not being in the panel of law firms identified by the head of legal at Eskom.

The report was used to suspend Econ Oil from the supplier database without application of the "audi alteram partem principle", which hears the other side first.

Despite challenges facing Eskom, Finance Minister Tito Mboweni made no mention of Eskom yesterday when he presented his Budget speech.

Daily News

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