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’s probe into André de Ruyter racism allegations slammed

By Sihle Mavuso Time of article published Mar 10, 2021

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Durban - THE decision by Eskom to launch a probe into allegations that its group chief executive, André de Ruyter, is using the race card to kick out black suppliers has been slammed as an attempt to sidestep a credible one which was proposed by Scopa (Standing Committee on Public Accounts) when the allegations surfaced last week.

This is the view of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA), one of the unions with members working for Eskom.

This was after the power utility yesterday said it would appoint an independent senior counsel to probe the allegations raised by the suspended chief procurement officer of Eskom, Solly Tshitangano.

In a letter to the board and Scopa, among others, Tshitangano said de Ruyter was elbowing out black suppliers in favour of white-owned ones. He alleged that he was doing that by bypassing normal procurement processes.

But Numsa spokesperson, Phakamile Hlubi-Majola said the current Eskom board has a history of ordering investigations not to get to the bottom of a matter, but to clear its favoured executives.

She cited last year’s report which cleared Eskom’s chief operating officer (COO) Jan Oberholzer of various allegations relating to corruption, dishonesty and abuse of power.

Oberholzer was accused of a conflict of interest when he allegedly failed to disclose his shareholding at Steffanuti Stocks, a company doing business with Eskom and which he once worked for.

“We want to make it clear as Numsa that we don’t have much faith in the actions that the board are currently taking, we have more faith in what Scopa is proposing and the enquiry that Scopa is proposing. We say this because the same board was very quick to whitewash Oberholzer in relation to the Steffanuti investigations … we expect another whitewash process in what’s being announced now. It’s very clear that this board is determined to support a failed GCEO,” she said.

Hlubi-Majola added that the issue of racism at Eskom seems to be widespread as in the past there has been a purge of highly qualified black engineers.

“There has been a concerted effort to get rid of black engineers who have skills and who understand how to run Eskom,” she alleged.

Another union organising at Eskom, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) said it welcomes the probe as the allegations of racism are serious. Its spokesperson, Livhuwani Mammburuu, said they want action against De Ruyter.

“In a company as big as Eskom, we don’t want such allegations and the instability at Eskom must come to an end. We don’t want anyone aligned to Eskom to be the one conducting the probe,” he said.

Furthermore, Mammburuu said the allegations of racism goes beyond what has been reported and can be seen in the salary structures of Eskom where black and white employees doing the same job, with the former paid less.

“The salary disparity at Eskom is another form of racism which should be addressed during the upcoming wage negotiations,” he added.

Despite calls for de Ruyter to take leave while the matter is being probed, Eskom’s spokesperson, Sikonathi Mantshantsha, said the board has full confidence in him even when others argue load-shedding has worsened under his watch.

“During 2015, Eskom had the worst load shedding at 115 days. In the financial year ended March 2020, load shedding was implemented for 42 days – this includes stage 6 that was implemented in the first week of December 2019. Mr de Ruyter joined Eskom in January 2020. This financial year ends on 31 March 2021, and load shedding has so far been implemented for 37 days since 1 April 2020,” Mantshantsha said.

He added that de Ruyter cannot be forced to take leave as this is a mere probe to determine whether the allegations have a basis or not.

“The first thing to note is that there has never been, and there is still no grievance that has been lodged against Mr De Ruyter, in terms of Eskom’s grievance process. The investigation the board has instituted is for an independent counsel to check whether there is any veracity and any basis to the allegations of racism that has now been made against Mr De Ruyter with Scopa in parliament. It is not a disciplinary process at this point.

“Counsel will interview any witnesses counsel thinks may be of assistance in the investigation, and will then give a report to the board, together with a recommendation on the way forward. Should that lead to any disciplinary process, Eskom’s well-established disciplinary process will then kick in against the party where credible evidence of wrongdoing has been found,” Mantshantsha said.

Political Bureau

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