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Facing The Fallout – The Aftermath of Andre de Ruyter’s Explosive Interview

Facing The Fallout – The Aftermath of Andre de Ruyters Explosive Interview

Facing The Fallout – The Aftermath of Andre de Ruyter’s Explosive Interview

Former Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter may no longer be at the helm of our labouring power utility, but he clearly still knows how to make sparks fly.

In a bombshell-laden interview with eNCA’s Annika Larsen, de Ruyter laid the blame for Eskom’s troubles squarely at the feet of the ANC. He cites government interference at the highest level, and organised, systemic corruption within the ruling party, as key reasons why this once-great company is now struggling to keep the lights on.

“When I took on the job, I obviously knew there was corruption, and that the organisation was emerging from State Capture,” he said. “What I hadn’t realised was that State Capture was like a cancer that had been unsuccessfully treated, so it’s just metastasised and grown.”

One of the more eye-popping revelations to come out of the interview is the theft from Eskom of around R1 billion a month by members of criminal syndicates operating in Mpumalanga. When asked where that money was going, de Ruyter replied, “conspicuous consumption.”

He made mention of gatherings where attendants washed their hands in 15-year-old whiskey. Why? Because they can.

He also spoke of a car dealer in Mpumalanga who allows cartel members to leave their Maserati’s and Maclaren’s (for which they paid cash) at his dealership when they’re not in use to avoid them being red-flagged in lifestyle audits.

Then there are those who choose to flaunt their designer luggage and couture clothing on social media.

“There’s no shame, and no attempt to hide it,” he says.

And yet, every time Eskom investigated these individuals, found evidence of corruption and approached the authorities with it, they did nothing.

“The extent to which this is known about, and, if not condoned is simply left alone, suggests that there are politicians who are complicit,” said de Ruyter.

If that’s true, where is State Security in all this?

“They are missing in action,” he says. Except, of course, when de Ruyter attended COP 27. “Then they saw fit to send one of their agents to keep an eye on me. Clearly, I am under suspicion of treasonous activity, yet the real culprits can act with impunity.”

Treason is a big word to throw around, but De Ruyter believes the government’s involvement in the running of Eskom is a real threat to the State.

“My non-legal definition of treason is if you take money to do something that is to the detriment of the State,” he says. “By this definition, acts of treason are happening on a daily basis in Mpumulanga.”

De Ruyter says he has been accused of subverting the state with loadshedding, with the ultimate aim of taking the ANC out of power.

And yet, if his allegations are true, the cadres of the ANC are doing a very good job of doing that themselves.

As journalist Prince Mashele writes, “We have reached the point where even shack dwellers in informal settlements can see evidence of ANC incompetence in the squalor they live in.

“All ANC presidents since 1994 have failed to invest in building new power-generation capacity at Eskom. In 2007, former president Thabo Mbeki apologised on behalf of the government for the ANC’s catastrophic neglect. Alas, an apology cannot produce electricity.”

De Ruyter agrees:

“The problem is, when you allow politicians with a 2- or 3-year cycle to start making decisions about 20-year infrastructure, they’re simply not interested,” he says. “They want what will win them the next election, not what will keep the country going for the next two decades.”

He blames much of the problem on the ANC’s belief that the State should control everything.

“The ghosts of Marx and Lenin still haunt the halls of Luthuli House,” he said.

He believes this stubborn clinging to a failed ideology is proving hugely damaging to South Africa’s international reputation.

“When these individuals talk to foreign investors and diplomats, the bemusement they leave behind at these meetings creates huge problems for South Africa’s credibility. People say, ‘we haven’t heard this language since the fall of the Berlin Wall, what do these people think?’”

Although our lack of international credibility is not to be taken lightly, the real damage is being done much closer to home.

De Ruyter says he knows of at least four organised crime cartels in Mpumalanga, with links to senior government officials, with significant influence in Eskom, and Transnet.

“It’s a systemic problem. For example, take a low-paid contractor and pay him R5 000 to jab a screwdriver into a piece of equipment. Then the people with the [corruptly procured] maintenance contracts get called out.”

His inference is that this type of incident happens every day. “But you can’t post a policeman at every employee’s shoulder,” he says.

But perhaps the most damning aspect of these horror stories is the complete lack of interest on behalf of the government and the authorities to do anything.

Eskom’s exhaustive investigations have implicated two serving cabinet ministers as being at the epicentre of the corrupt goings on. Yet despite reporting this to Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan, the response was a metaphorical shrug of the shoulders.

“And when I expressed my concerns to senior government ministers about their attempts to water down governance surrounding the $8.5 billion Eskom received at COP26, the response was, ‘For the greater good, you have to allow some people to eat a little bit.’”

And when he pointed out the involvement of one particular high-level politician, “the minister I was talking to looked at the senior level official he was with and said, ‘I guess it was inevitable it would come out anyway,’” he says.

His allegations are supported by an article in the Daily Maverick, based on information contained in monthly intelligence reports it receives. These reports make mention of a so-called “Territorial Ruler” (whose name they withheld for legal reasons but whom, they make clear, is one of the senior cabinet members de Ruyter refers to). They list some of his involvement as being:

  • “He controls people high up in the power stations to approve contracts for his friends and family.
  • “He exercises firm control over contracts awarded for several types of departments in Mpumalanga province.
  • “He also controls senior officials in the province, such as police and traffic police chiefs, city councils, and other local authority levels.
  • “Information suggests that contract beneficiaries pay [him] kickbacks in cash for tenders awarded due to his influence. Rumours are that he hides some of his money in JoJo water tanks.
  • “Should any investigation be initiated in Mpumalanga, an informant will report to [him] and give instructions to certain senior officials to ensure the investigation is stopped.
  • “The indications are that he controls at least one hit squad operating in Mpumalanga.”

But no matter how widely supported de Ruyter’s allegations are, his interview with eNCA triggered inevitable pushback from the Government.

ANC secretary-general Fikile Mbalula recently announced that the ANC has served court papers on Eskom and de Ruyter.

“We think there is something illegal committed by De Ruyter,” he said. “The ANC is a political party that has not instructed anyone to go to Eskom and mess things up.”

He accused De Ruyter of making the allegations “without any shred of evidence.”

De Ruyter himself admits that some of his concerns aren’t backed up with cold hard proof:

Expressing his suspicions about the timing of a visit by Russia’s Minister of Energy, he said, 

“Russia is very long on gas following its invasion of Ukraine and is looking for new markets. It was quite interesting for me to observe how soon we received a request from the Central Energy Fund to transfer three of our ageing power stations over to them and convert them to gas. Now maybe I am adding one and one and getting three but in politics, there is very seldom such a thing as a coincidence.”

Naturally, the Central Energy Fund refutes this, saying, “It is reckless for De Ruyter to go on national television and make wild allegations.”

But just imagine if these, and his other allegations, turn out to be true. What would this mean for South Africa?

Tim Cohen answers this question in the Daily Maverick:

“First, it would mean the ANC has learnt nothing from the past decade of increasing corruption and economic malaise. [They have] not learnt that the population of South Africa expects the government to serve the people and not themselves; that corruption is still rampant in the party, and that party members now regard it as ‘inevitable’.

“Second, it would mean that the billions spent on the Zondo Commission mean nothing because the culture of theft and corruption continues.

“And finally, that party members are setting up to steal money, or extort money, or unduly grant themselves contracts, from the huge US/European Union fund intended to facilitate our energy transition.”

The obvious question now is: is there hope for our once-great power utility?

“Eskom in its current state cannot be returned to its former glory,” believes de Ruyter. “Once you have so badly neglected mechanical equipment that it’s falling apart, once you’ve allowed your skills base to be eroded to the point where people are no longer following basic principles of good operating practice, I don’t think it’s feasible to turn it around.”

One thing’s for sure: the current situation is not sustainable. Our country cannot endure loadshedding at its current levels indefinitely.

“There is a lot of capacity in the pipeline,” says de Ruyter. “But we’ve left it so late, 2023 is going to be a tough year.”

He highlighted a specific incident of corruption at Kusile power station as being primarily responsible for the levels of loadshedding we’re currently experiencing.

“We lost 3 units at Kusile due to the collapse of a flue duct,” he said. “There was a manipulation of the original design criteria to ensure Hitachi got the contract. Hitachi is in a joint venture with Chancellor House, the investment arm of the ANC…

“If the contract had been awarded correctly, we would not be having the severity of loadshedding we’re having right now.”

In response, Mondli Gungubele, Minister in the Presidency, said, “I find that, unless he can demonstrate evidence, this is insulting. He knows that the ANC government is committed to cleaning up government.”

I for one hope they have a very big shovel.