/ 23 February 2023

DA calls former Eskom chief executive De Ruyter ‘brave’, thanks him for his service

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Former Eskom chief executive Andre de Ruyter. (Gallo Images / Brenton Geach)

The Democratic Alliance has thanked former Eskom chief executive Andre de Ruyter for his service, calling him brave for lifting the veil on the large-scale corruption at the state-owned utility during an interview broadcast on television this week.

“We commend his bravery, especially in the television interview this week,” DA member of parliament Ghaleb Cachalia said in a statement on Thursday.

“De Ruyter is a true patriot and we wish him success for the future. It is telling that no one in the government has seen fit to thank him for his efforts — evidence of the total conflation of state and party.” 

On Wednesday evening, Eskom announced that De Ruyter, who has overseen South Africa’s longest period of load-shedding in more than a decade since the power crisis began, had 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.

Wednesday’s announcement came after the embattled chief executive had an explosive television interview on Tuesday evening with broadcaster, ENCA, in which he said available evidence showed that the governing 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. When questioned by the broadcaster about concerns around corruption, De Ruyter said that he had expressed his concern to a nameless senior government minister about attempts to water down governance around the $8.5 billion in funds being sourced to fund the country’s “just transition” away from fossil fuels.

Shortly after the interview, DA leader John Steenhuisen said the party was drawing up an urgent request to Eskom management in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA). He said this was to obtain all information and evidence at Eskom’s disposal regarding the alleged ANC kingpin behind the systemic corruption “that has brought our country’s electricity supply to its knees”.

“In the interests of accountability, transparency and combating the ANC corruption that has caused the load-shedding crisis, the DA’s PAIA request will compel Eskom management to not only make public the name of the senior ANC politician concerned, but to hand over all information and evidence at their disposal regarding the ANC’s involvement in corruption at Eskom,” Steenhuisen said.  

“Unlike the current governing party, the DA takes these revelations extremely seriously and will use every means at our disposal to get to the bottom of the criminal ANC syndicate behind Eskom corruption. Should this information be verified through our PAIA request, De Ruyter’s revelations will provide incontrovertible proof that the ANC stands as accused number one for the collapse of the South African electricity system and the suffering this inflicts on the 60 million people of this country.”

De Ruyter has been at loggerheads with energy minister Gwede Mantashe over the country’s electricity recovery strategy. In a previous interview with the Mail & Guardian, Mantashe criticised De Ruyter and the previous Eskom board, saying they may not have the skills needed to revive the ailing power utility.

Mantashe said “Alpha chief executive” De Ruyter would have been better suited at the power utility after the appointment of a “fixer”.

De Ruyter, who took to the helm of Eskom in 2020, has been criticised for failing to turn the embattled utility around. Eskom, hamstrung by its huge debt and years of poor maintenance, recently implemented stage six load-shedding for the second time in its history of power cuts, pummelling an economy already in the doldrums.

The DA’s Cachalia, however, said during his tenure, De Ruyter had increased levels of maintenance, dented debt and pushed for a shift towards renewable energy with a firm hand on the once-flagship utility. 

De Ruyter also bravely targeted coal theft syndicates and sabotage, resulting in a threat on his life, the DA MP added.

Cachalia said another acting chief executive would fill the role at Eskom without any institutional knowledge of the kind that De Ruyter had, and without any proper handover while the country endures what he said was effectively stage seven load-shedding — although the utility has said it is implementing stage six.

“This (stage seven) was confirmed by the Eskom spokesperson who announced the cutting of 7 045MW of power late on Tuesday to keep the grid from a total collapse,” Cachalia said.

“As De Ruyter bravely pointed out, the ANC-aligned criminal mafia remains embedded within Eskom under the protection of the ANC government and, consequently, the country’s power system has come perilously close to a total grid collapse. 

“Unless urgent action is taken to bring the criminals at Eskom to justice and stabilise power generation — (which is) the intent of our PAIA application — South Africa is headed towards a dark and cold winter.”