/ 26 April 2023

De Ruyter refuses to name alleged graft-enabling minister and crooked politician

Screenshot 2023 04 26 091320
Former Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter when he appeared before Scopa in April.

Former Eskom chief executive Andre de Ruyter on Wednesday declined to tell parliament’s standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) the name of the minister who allegedly told him that regarding corruption at the embattled entity, he had to “enable some people to eat a little bit”.

And despite being pressed, he also declined to name the senior politician that was allegedly involved in directing criminal cartels at the power utility, despite the offer of parliamentary privilege. De Ruyter said that if he started down “that path” he would by a process of elimination be forced to disclose the name.  

At the start of the sitting, ANC Scopa member Bheki Hadebe asked that De Ruyter name the minister, but said: “I don’t think it will be appropriate for me to divulge the name of that minister, as it [shouldn’t] be construed as that person condoning it.”

De Ruyter first made the claims in a February interview with eNCA, telling journalist Annika Larsen that he had expressed concern to a senior minister about “in my view, [attempts] to water down governance around the $8.5 billion that by and large through Eskom’s intervention, we got at COP26 [for South Africa’s just energy transition].

“And the response was, essentially, you know, you have to be pragmatic, you have to, in order to pursue the greater good, you have to enable some people to eat a little bit.”

Regarding the senior politician, he had said in the same interview: “So when we pointed out that there was one particular high-level politician that was involved in this, the minister in question looked at a senior official and said, ‘I guess it was inevitable that it would come out anyway’, which suggests this was not news.”

The Scopa sitting is De Ruyter’s first public appearance — albeit virtual — since the eNCA interview.

De Ruyter suggested that Scopa “move on” from seeking the minister’s name, and focus instead on investigating the potential misuse of public funds. He later said he was making his submission before the watchdog committee in what had become a highly litigious setting.

But Scopa chair Mkhuleko Hlengwa said he believed that Hadebe’s request was in order. “I do think that having a minister involved in these matters, in the manner in which it has been framed, is in the interest of the committee … We have been saddled with a situation of political leadership interference in the affairs of departments and entities, and I think that … having a frank discussion [is in order].”

Hadebe said that at the time of the minister’s alleged remark, De Ruyter was Eskom’s accounting officer and was compelled under the Public Finance Management Act to make any corruption, malfeasance, or enabling of such, known.

De Ruyter responded: “I did engage with the South African police at the highest level, with the national commissioner of police, and a number of other senior officials, generals, brigadiers as well as senior representatives of the State Security Agency.  

“I also shared information about corruption and theft with the Natjoints at the South African Police Services College in Pretoria. That, I think, gives sufficient credence to the fact that I extensively engaged with the law enforcement authorities to make clear that appropriate steps should be taken.”

The ANC has threatened to sue De Ruyter for claiming in the eNCA interview that the organisation is inherently corrupt, and for not reporting the information he has about graft to the appropriate authorities.

In the affidavit he submitted to Scopa, De Ruyter expanded on the interactions he had with law enforcement agencies about the nature and scope of the malfeasance and corruption, which had been gathered in a private intelligence operation.  

He said that on Saturday 4 June 2022, at Megawatt Park, he met “senior police officials, including the national police commissioner, General Fannie Masemola, and representatives of the State Security Agency, where I requested the assistance of both SAPS and SSA to investigate corruption at Eskom, and to assist Eskom in combating crime.

“Following this meeting, a police brigadier (whose identity I leave to SAPS to disclose for reasons of security) was designated by General Masemola to be the liaison with the intelligence operation. This officer has had full access to all of the intelligence gathered and has stated to me that he has kept his line command informed. 

“Additionally, since changes were made to the management of the Hawks in Mpumalanga, similar exchanges have been held with senior commanders in the province, and I am informed that all applicable information has been put at their disposal.”

De Ruyter said that in July 2022, he again shared “high-level concerns” about corruption and theft at Eskom with the national police commissioner and his staff and offered to make available the intelligence to designated individuals.

“On the same date, I reported the findings to the shareholder representative, Minister Pravin Gordhan, and to the national security adviser, Dr Sydney Mufamadi. The main findings were shared with the latter two officials.”

De Ruyter said in his affidavit that he also reported the graft to Eskom’s then interim chairperson, Malegapuru Makgoba, and told the new board about the intelligence operation. That was in November 2022.

Democratic Alliance leader John Steenhuisen has stated publicly that the senior/high-ranking politician De Ruyter mentioned in the eNCA interview was then deputy president David Mabuza. Mabuza has denied the claims, calling Steenhuisen a “political charlatan desperate for attention”.  

Scopa is expected to continue its questioning of De Ruyter into Wednesday afternoon.