/ 10 May 2023

Gordhan called for intelligence ops at Eskom: Makgoba

Clean bill: Professor Malegapuru Makgoba denies that the KwaZulu-Natal university has financial baggage.
Former Eskom chairperson Malegapuru Makgoba on Wednesday said it was Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan’s idea that the state-owned entity should conduct intelligence gathering to combat corruption.

Former Eskom chairperson Malegapuru Makgoba on Wednesday said it was Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan’s idea that the state-owned entity should conduct intelligence gathering to combat corruption.

Makgoba told parliament’s watchdog standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) he believed the police were asleep as far as sabotage and corruption at Eskom was concerned, and only woke up after former chief executive André de Ruyter initiated a privately funded intelligence-driven operation.

Makgoba stressed that he was aware of it, and so was the minister, as he proposed that it be done.

“I was informed and I think the minister of public enterprises was actually the one who brought up this matter, because of the way Eskom was besieged and he said to André: ‘You know you have to gather some intelligence somehow’,” Makgoba said.

“He didn’t say it must be done in the manner André did, but he said we needed to gather some intelligence to be on top of this problem because load-shedding was increasing, criminal activities were increasing and so forth and so forth. That much I am aware of and I can confirm that.”

The intelligence operation has been called illicit, unreliable and speculation-driven, and De Ruyter has been criticised for not sharing the reports that flowed from it with the police and his political principles, but instead going public with allegations in an eNCA television interview in February.

On Tuesday, the head of the Directorate for Priority Crimes Investigation (DPCI, the Hawks), General Godfrey Lebeya, told Scopa that De Ruyter had failed to disclose information about corruption afflicting the company.

De Ruyter firmly denied this in an interview with the Mail & Guardian, saying he had told the police far more of what emerged from the intelligence work done by the private firm of former police commissioner George Fivaz than he mentioned in the interview with Annika Larsen.

“The detail of the intelligence reports shared by Fivaz with SAPS (bearing in mind that DPCI is part of SAPS) significantly exceeds the Larsen detail,” De Ruyter said.

On Wednesday, Eskom chairperson Mpho Makwana accused De Ruyter of misleading the public and bringing the utility into disrepute.

He denied De Ruyter’s statement that the new board, headed by himself, was informed of the findings in November last year.

“No, that is not correct,” Makwana said, when Scopa chairman Mkhulekho Hlengwa reminded him of the former chief executive’s insistence on this point.

Makgoba said Eskom’s presentation on Wednesday regarding its efforts to combat corruption did not in fact conflict with De Ruyter’s version.

“What I have heard from the presentation of the board of Eskom today, does not contradict what De Ruyter has said because in his own presentation he alluded to all of these issues and he did make a statement to the effect that progress has been made, so he didn’t articulate in detail as to what we have heard around oil fuel, about free tax, but he did indicate that progress had been made,” he said.

“And these were issues I think that concerned De Ruyter during his term.”

He then lambasted the police, and suggested that De Ruyter enlisted private investigators because the law enforcement authorities were not doing their work.

“If SAPS and the Hawks had done their work effectively and efficiently, we would not be meeting here as a committee today,” Makgoba said.

“The issue that De Ruyter undertook was an operational matter because Eskom at the time was besieged with sabotage and corruption and we were not getting mileage from the law enforcement agencies,” he added.

“Not that [the Hawks] were not investigating but they were just taking too long; being almost lackadaisical about what needed to be done when Rome was burning and this was repeating itself in a number of ways around cases that were reported, either to the SAPS or to the Hawks, with very little action. 

“As a board we were concerned that our crown in the jewel was being destroyed when we had a security cluster that seemed to be asleep.”

The board raised concerns “as to what action is actually happening”, and left it to De Ruyter to address these as it regarded the issue as operational.

De Ruyter did subsequently inform him of intelligence gathering on corruption, “so I can confirm that, and I can address the details of that. I can also confirm that on 5 July 2022, De Ruyter did inform [Sydney] Mufamadi and honourable, Pravin Gordhan”.

Mufamadi is President Cyril Ramaphosa’s national security adviser.

On 16 July, De Ruyter guided Gordhan, Ramaphosa, Police Minister Bheki Cele and Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe around the Tutuka power station to give them “first hand information of what corruption and sabotage means in a single power station”.

After this, Ramaphosa met power station managers at Eskom’s headquarters, MegaWatt Park, to discuss his observations.

“He was obviously very much engaging in that,” Makgoba added. “The president had been briefed on 16 July.”

As De Ruyter has done, Makgoba then pointed to Ramaphosa’s references to intelligence-driven work and the results this had yielded in his State of the Nation address to parliament in February. The president noted that it had led to 43 arrests by that stage.

“Which intelligence-driven operations were this that led to 43 people being arrested?” Makgoba asked rhetorically. 

“When you listen to what the security director at Eskom talks about arrests and what changes have happened, it seems like the SAPS and the Hawks have only woken up after they’ve had this intelligence-related information.”