Gordhan has a go at De Ruyter over explosive interview allegations
CEOs of entities such as Eskom should not be involved in ‘open political debates or assertions’, minister tells MPs
Public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan has launched an attack on outgoing Eskom CEO André de Ruyter, rebuking him for “meddling” in politics instead of focusing on ending load-shedding.
CEOs of entities such as Eskom should not be involved in “open political debates or assertions”, and if they have political views, “that is their private business and they are welcome to express those views privately”, Gordhan told parliament’s portfolio committee on public enterprises on Wednesday.
It is the responsibility of CEOs of all entities to “keep their focus on the job at hand and make sure that is done as proficiently as possible”, the minister said.
Gordhan was referring to a controversial eNCA interview in which De Ruyter made explosive allegations about the inner workings of the power utility and his experience as its captain. De Ruyter, who sat down with Anika Larsen, was asked if he thought Eskom was the “feeding trough” for the ANC, to which he replied: “I would say the evidence suggests that it is.”
“I expressed my concern to a senior government minister about attempts, in my view, to water down governance around the $8.5bn that, by and large due to Eskom’s intervention, we got at COP26, and the response was essentially that you must be pragmatic. In order to pursue the greater good, you have to enable some people to eat a little bit,” he said.
“So yes, I think it’s entrenched.”
Asked what happened when he reported his concerns and the unrelenting criminal activity at Eskom, he said: “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 anyways.’”
To De Ruyter, this suggested that it “was not news” to them.
Asked whether the said minister was still in the cabinet, De Ruyter laughed and said: “Let’s not go there because of the risk.”
It’s rather unfortunate that an important fight ... in respect of [ridding] our institutions of corruption, is now caught up in an unnecessary controversy, it would seem.Pravin Gordhan, minister of public enterprises
De Ruyter’s comments were “unfortunate”, Gordhan said. “I think it’s a well-known and undeniable fact that corruption has been a feature both in Eskom and many other entities across government and, of course, the private sector.
“That became the subject, in part, of … the Zondo commission. This corruption, as we have learnt, is committed by individuals for their own benefit[s], and that distinction must be drawn between individuals and the agreed search for improper benefits through various tenders and contracts.
“We all know that state capture, in the formal sense, might have ended, but corruption is still a scourge that we, both as parliament and certainly as the shareholder in government, want to eradicate from our entities, and Eskom is no exception.
“In this context, obviously under the new board that was appointed in 2018 by the government, then chaired by the late Jabu Mabuza, you will recall he was also the acting CEO for a while, and a lot of good work was initiated to push back on and recover funds which were lost as a result of corruption during the state capture era.
“Clearly lots of people have been reported to the law enforcement authorities for alleged involvement in one way or other for acts of corruption or fraud.”
Gordhan said there has been a number of investigations, people have appeared in courts, and a number of trials is scheduled to be heard.
“One thing we have got to do is to differentiate between suspicion or rumour and actual evidence, and if there is actual evidence, which is what the police try to establish when investigating with the Hawks and the SIU [Special Investigating Unit], NPA [National Prosecuting Authority], only then can law enforcement authorities be made aware of that evidence so they can act on it.”
The minister said corporate governance requires that the Eskom board look at these clips, deliberate on the matter and report back to the shareholder and parliament on the outcome of their deliberations.
“It’s rather unfortunate that an important fight … in respect of [ridding] our institutions of corruption, is now caught up in an unnecessary controversy, it would seem.”
Meanwhile, the DA said it is drawing up an urgent request to Eskom management in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act demanding to know the name of the senior minister.
“In the interests of accountability, transparency and combating the ANC corruption that has caused the load-shedding crisis, the DA’s 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,” DA leader John Steenhuisen said.
Would you like to comment on this article?
Sign up (it's quick and free) or sign in now.
Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.