Former Eskom chief executive officer Andre de Ruyter has launched a surprise tell-all book about his time as head of Eskom, delving deeper into his claims of corruption at the battled utility, as well as the political hands that have a firm grip on it.
The book follows an explosive interview the executive had with ENCA in February, where he accused the ANC of treating Eskom as a “feeding trough” and referred to at least two high-level politicians as being directly involved in corruption.
The allegations ignited a fire in the media and within government, with stakeholders scrambling to find out precisely who de Ruyter was referring to.
According to reviews of the new book by the City Press and the Sunday Times, de Ruyter does not name the politicians in his book but explicitly names public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan and President Cyril Ramaphosa’s national security adviser Sydney Mufamadi, as knowing about it.
De Ruyter said that when he reported the corruption to Gordhan, the minister looked at Mufamadi and said “Well, I guess it was inevitable that it would come out”.
This echoed de Ruyter’s input at a recent Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) briefing, where de Ruyter directed all questions about the politicians’ identities to Gordhan and Mufamadi.
The two officials are expected to appear before Scopa in the coming days.
On top of being more direct on the politicians involved, de Ruyter also expands on the criminal syndicates robbing Eskom dry and adding fresh allegations of interference at the power utility.
According to the Sunday Times, the exec alleged that some criminal networks had ties in high-up places – even as high as the Union Buildings – and that police officers are also in on the saga.
The City Press quoted other parts of the book talking to tenderpreneurs, middlemen and front companies arising in local procurement that pushed Eskom’s costs up by 30%.
In terms of interference, the former CEO reportedly pointed to a strained relationship with the new board, which tried to usurp operation powers from the executive team and sidelined them frequently. This made de Ruyter’s job untenable, he said.
He also said that mineral resources and energy minister Gwede Mantashe was ‘territorial’ over the political sphere and that Gorhan was competent but hampered by loyalty to the ANC.
The City Press reported that the book was kept a secret and had a surprise launch out of fears that someone would try to prevent it from being published.
Security officials addressing Scopa over the past few weeks have homed in on De Ruyter’s R50 million private “intelligence gathering” operation, questioning its legality and giving different accounts of how aware they were that it existed.
Some have confirmed that they were aware of its existence as far back as July 2022, while others have denied any knowledge of it. Former Eskom acting chair , Malegapuru Makgoba, said that President Cyril Ramaphosa and Gordhan were both aware of the controversial investigation.
According to Makgoba, Gordhan may have tacitly greenlit the operation by requesting that de Ruyter launch an investigation into Eskom as it was “besieged” at the time.
The minister didn’t specify how the investigation should be done but stressed that the issues had to be addressed as load shedding and criminal activities were increasing, he said.
About the book
When André de Ruyter took over as Eskom CEO in January 2020, he quickly realised why it was considered the toughest job in South Africa.
Aside from neglected equipment, ageing power stations and an eroded skills base, he discovered that Eskom was crippled by corruption on a staggering scale. Fake fuel oil deliveries at just one power station cost Eskom R100 million per month; kneepads retailing for R150 a pair were purchased for R80 000; billions of rands of equipment supposedly housed in the company’s storerooms was missing.
Faced with police inaction, he was compelled to plunge into a world that was foreign to him – a world of spies and safe houses, of bulletproof vests and bodyguards. In Truth to Power, De Ruyter tells the behind-the-scenes story of how he launched a private investigation that exposed at least four criminal cartels feeding off Eskom. While fighting this scourge, he had to deal with political interference, absurd regulations, non-paying municipalities, unfounded accusations of racism, wildcat strikes, sabotage and a poisoning attempt.
De Ruyter takes the reader inside the boardrooms and government meetings where South Africa’s future is shaped, with ministers often pulling in conflicting directions. He explains how renewable energy is the cheapest and quickest solution to our power crisis, in spite of fierce opposition from vested coal interests.
De Ruyter candidly reflects on his three years at the power utility, his successes and failures, his reasons for leaving and his hopes for the future. As someone who worked at the highest levels of the state but is not beholden to the ruling party, he is uniquely placed to speak truth to power.