/ 26 May 2023

Scopa to tell De Ruyter to submit Eskom intelligence report

De Ruyter22
Former Eskom chief executive Andre de Ruyter. (Gallo Images / Brenton Geach)

Parliament’s standing committee on public accounts will ask former Eskom chief executive André de Ruyter for a copy of the intelligence report that implicated at least one senior ruling party politician in corruption at the company, chairperson Mkhulekho Hlengwa said on Friday.

“I’m going to ask that legal writes to Mr De Ruyter to solicit this report from him, because it forms the basis upon which the allegations were made. We will make determinations later as to how we deal with it but I think he has to hand it over,” he said.

If not, the report would be requested from the private investigators who compiled it, he said, because a debate has raged for three months as to what they had found, who was told and what they did about it. 

Scopa has, for weeks, heard claims and counterclaims in this regard when De Ruyter, then the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (the Hawks), the current and previous chairperson at Eskom and Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan appeared before it. 

“Because unless there is a solid basis for the discussion, it continues to be a theatre of speculation,” Hlengwa said.

The decision came after a three-hour question session with national presidential security adviser Sydney Mufamadi who insisted that he never briefed President Cyril Ramaphosa on the intelligence De Ruyter shared with him and Gordhan in July last year.

Instead, Mufamadi said, he advised De Ruyter to inform the police to allow them to investigate and to revert to him if there was any problem in that regard. 

“You don’t isolate elements of the report and say do this about this, do that about that, because you are referring it to the appropriate people who will then look at the report in its entirety,” he said.

Pressed further on why he did not go to the president with the allegation that first became public knowledge when De Ruyter raised it in a television interview in February, Mufamadi said decades in government had taught him differently.

“I know that even the police know that they cannot get an allegation and run with it to the president, then you must be able to answer the questions that the president will raise: have you verified this?

He said if the police responded, in that scenario, that they were still in the process of investigating, the president would ask: “So why are you coming to me?” 

“You don’t do that in this line of work,” Mufamadi added.

Hlengwa said Mufamadi’s confirmation that De Ruyter shared the intelligence at a formal meeting with him and the minister was instructive. 

“It was a meeting, it was a serious meeting,” Mufamadi said, adding that De Ruyter was reading from a document when he briefed him and the minister.

When he appeared before Scopa last week, Gordhan rejected a statement by former interim Eskom chairperson Malegapuru Makgoba that he was the one who encouraged De Ruyter to launch an intelligence gathering exercise to get to the bottom of endemic graft at the company.

He said De Ruyter had merely told him about the investigation in passing. And, like Mufamadi, he said he did not say what the chief executive told him with the president despite telling the committee that he believed load-shedding was the result of ongoing state capture at the company.

He had no doubt, the minister said, “that there is a link between — past and present — corruption, sabotage and load-shedding”.

On Friday Hlengwa said Scopa would therefore go back to Gordhan with further questions.

“An impression has been created that in large part these matters were dealt with in passing … so the fact that these were formal matters, sets into motion for us the key critical question as to what, where the formal responses of those to whom these matters were reported to or the ones who were reporting,” he said.

“So in this case it would be Mr De Ruyter himself, the minister and the law enforcement agencies. I am going to ask the minister of public entities and the law enforcement what it was that they did.”

De Ruyter would face questions about whether he had followed due process, Hlengwa said, noting that not only did Makgoba and former Eskom board member Busi Mavuso know, but it had emerged that the current board were also briefed to some extent, although chairperson Mpho Makwana denied any knowledge. 

“What we don’t have is the documentation that mapped out the briefings and this is what is elusive,” Hlengwa said

He and other committee members expressed surprise that Mufamadi did not inform Ramaphosa that the intelligence report fingered a senior ruling party politician. Hlengwa questioned whether, given what has emerged in the past five years on the extent of state capture at Eskom, the information did not demand a different response.

“I still don’t get a sense that a CEO reporting a matter as serious as this one, that it was taken up with the kind of seriousness that it deserves, because anyone capturing Eskom through corruption would have covered their bases and closed the loops, in the value chain of law enforcement agencies, when we know that they too have not been immune to state capture,” Hlengwa said.

“In hindsight, could you not have handled this matter a bit differently?”

Mufamadi replied that no, regardless of the shock value of the information at hand, it had to be treated according to the established process.

“It does not matter who is involved, due process has to take its course,” he said. “Because you see it can raise your eyebrows but at the end of the day you must sit back and say, due process must take its course. Have I taken steps to ensure that that happens?”

Hlengwa then asked whether Mufamadi believed progress had been followed in investigating the allegations De Ruyter brought to him and Gordhan almost a year ago.

He replied that when the Hawks briefed the same committee earlier this month, they may not have been able to divulge all that they have uncovered because they were speaking in a public forum. 

“Well, let me put it this way … I was listening to the hearing involving people from SAPS, SIU and so on and I was wondering to myself if they were giving that report to a meeting in a closed door, would they possibly have said more? And I say possibly, I am speculating,” Mufamadi said.

He advised Hlengwa to consider conducting sensitive briefings in closed session.

De Ruyter solicited money from the private sector to hire George Fivaz Forensic and Risk to conduct the intelligence gathering operation. In his television interview, he said after he briefed a minister that their report fingered a senior ANC politician, he turned to a colleague and remarked that it was inevitable that this would come out.

Gordhan shortly afterwards said he was the minister in question but could not remember whether he made such a remark. On Friday, Mufamadi — the colleague to whom he turned — said neither could he.