/ 23 February 2023

ANC to take legal action against former Eskom chief executive Andre De Ruyter

Andrederuyter (2)
Andre De Ruyter. File photo

ANC secretary general Fikile Mbalula has hit back at former Eskom chief executive Andre de Ruyter, threatening to take legal action against him over his explosive allegations in a television interview that senior members of the ruling party were involved in corruption within the parastatal.

In a media briefing on Thursday to address the interview with eNCA, Mbalula called into question De Ruyters political position, saying he would not be surprised if the former chief executive campaigned for another party ahead of 2024 elections. 

Mbalula alluded De Ruyter had right-wing leanings, saying he had failed in his duties at Eskom and had acted repulsively during the interview, which was first aired on Tuesday. 

Mbalula said De Ruyter was using the ANC as a “scapegoat” for his incompetence and failure to transform Eskom. 

“We regarded De Ruyter as a patriot. We didn’t look at him in terms of colour, we looked at him as a man, a South African who can deliver,” he said.

He said the party had instructed its lawyers to look at possible legal action over De Ruyter’s allegations, and that a legal letter would be written to the former Eskom boss giving him seven to 10 days to substantiate his statement about a corrupt ANC.

“If in a certain period he doesn’t prove those claims, what he said about the ANC, we will take legal action. As we speak now, our lawyers are looking at this thing. He must prove what he said,” the ruling party’s chief administrator added. 

In the interview, De Ruyter said available evidence showed that the ANC saw Eskom as an “eating trough.”

He admitted to failing to prevent load-shedding in the country but highlighted entrenched corruption within government and governance around Eskom as a hindrance.

When questioned by the broadcaster about concerns around corruption, he said that he had raised his worries to an unnamed senior government minister about attempts to water down governance around the $8.5 billion being sourced to fund the country’s “just transition” away from fossil fuels.

“The response was essentially, ‘you know, you have to be pragmatic — in order to pursue the greater good, you have to enable some people to eat a little bit’. So yes, I think it (corruption) is entrenched,” he said.

De Ruyter, who has overseen South Africa’s longest period of load-shedding in more than a decade since the power crisis began, has left the troubled parastatal with immediate effect.

He had been expected to serve notice until the end of March after announcing his resignation at the end of last year, but left the organisation by “mutual agreement” after a special board meeting that was held on Wednesday, Eskom said in a statement. 

“The board further resolved that De Ruyter will not be required to serve the balance of his notice period but that he will be released from his position with immediate effect.”

Arrangements for an acting group chief executive are being finalised with Pravin Gordhan’s department of public enterprises.

Mbalula said that it was unfair for De Ruyter to label the ANC as corrupt, adding that he had never called the former Eskom boss to account at Luthuli House. 

“The comments of De Ruyter are completely unacceptable. His opportunistic

venture into the political arena has unmasked his regressive political and ideological agenda. If he wants to become a political player and undermine the efforts of patriotic South Africans, then let him say so publicly and declare for all to know who he is aligned with,” he said.

Mbalula added that the chief executives of any entity should not be involved in open political debates or assertions, and that where they had political views, “they must be kept

private matter so that they don’t detract attention from their professional work”. 

“De Ruyter was appointed strictly to lead the turnaround of Eskom into a functional

public enterprise that provides the country with stable, reliable electricity. He has completely failed to deliver on this contractual obligation. Instead, he shifts the goalposts by advertising his right-wing ideological posture on a matter that falls outside the scope of his employment contract,” he said.

“The question of whether the national energy utility is state-owned or not was never part of his contract. It is a forte of the governing party and its ideological perspective on how to best ensure equitable access to electricity as a public good.” 

He questioned why De Ruyter had raised allegations of corruption by ANC members only when he was about to leave the power utility. 

“If De Ruyter has any evidence to the contrary, he is duty bound to present it. We

commend the tough actions taken by the SAPS, Hawks, SIU and other law enforcement agencies to bring charges against corrupt persons inside and outside Eskom,” he said.

“They must be furnished with information to do their job. South Africans from all communities and backgrounds are justifiably angry and upset that he has been in charge during a period of declining performance and unacceptable levels of load-shedding. 

“The ANC priority, and that of our government, is to reduce load-shedding and ensure energy security for all South Africans, including big and small businesses.”

Mbalula called on the Eskom board to move with speed to fill the vacancy created by De Ruyter’s exit, saying the ANC supported the actions of the board to ensure proper governance and integrity at the utility.