The ANC has denied allegations of political meddling and corruption at Eskom, saying that former CEO Andre de Ruyter needs to show evidence of wrongdoing or keep his ‘right-wing’ views to himself.
The party addressed allegations made by Andre De Ruyter during a poast-budget briefing on Thursday (23 February).
In an explosive interview with journalist Annika Larsen on Tuesday evening (21 February), De Ruyter accused the governing party of using the embattled state-owned power utility as a “feeding trough”, saying that corruption was entrenched in the government and its dealings with the company.
ANC secretary general Fikile Mbalula rejected the allegations, calling them irresponsible, baseless and ridiculous.
He said that De Ruyter was trying to distract from his own failings at Eskom, and was taking an opportunistic “venture” into the political space.
In doing so, he “unmasked his regressive political and ideological agenda”, Mbalula said, adding that De Ruyter was advertising “right-wing ideology”.
He said that the ruling party would “not be deterred and side-tracked by utterances of naysayers such as the outgoing Eskom CEO.”
“De Ruyter was appointed strictly to lead the turnaround of Eskom into a functional public enterprise that provides the country with stable, reliable electricity. The question of whether the national energy utility is state-owned or not was part of his contract,” he added.
Echoing the sentiments of Public Enterprises minister – and fellow ANC comrade – Pravin Gordhan, Mbalula said that De Ruyter’s political views should be kept private.
Regarding the allegations of corruption, Mbalula said that De Ruyter was trying to shift blame – and is duty-bound to provide evidence of the contrary.
One of the most significant allegations made by De Ruyter in the interview related to a ‘senior politician’ who was involved in corrupt activity. When the former chief executive reported this to a government minister, he was met with a blasé response.
“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’,” said De Ruyter.
De Ruyter also alleged that there were attempts to water down governance around the $8.5 billion conditional loans inbound from rich countries such as the UK, Germany and the Netherlands – and that there was a “vociferous rejection” of the Just Energy Transition because there was “no way for the comrades to eat”.
The former executive admitted that he had failed to reduce load shedding during his time in charge of the company. However, he said that rampant crime, entrenched corruption, and constant political interference made the task impossible.
Following the interview, and a less-than-amicable response from Gordhan, an urgent board meeting was called. Hours later, De Ruyter was out with immediate effect.
De Ruyter was originally expected to end his term as CEO at the end of March 2023, after he tendered his resignation in December 2022.
Energy experts have warned that the space left behind by De Ruyter’s exit – and the looming exit of other senior executives at Eskom – leave the company open to be filled with more political appointees.