Former Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter said he was inadvertently the head of the largest organised crime syndicate in South Africa. Tony Soprano of the power industry.
This was one of the snippets shared by De Ruyter in his new book, Truth to Power: My Three Years Inside Eskom.
He described how he realised that aside from neglected equipment, ageing power stations and an eroded skills base, Eskom was crippled by corruption on a staggering scale.
Shortly after joining Eskom as CEO in January 2020, he met with Ben Theron, a freelance forensic investigator.
Theron had done work with the Department of Public Enterprises, the Special Investigating Unit and Eskom.
Theron’s opening remark in this meeting had stopped De Ruyter in his tracks.
“Congratulations, you are now the head of the largest organised crime syndicate in South Africa,” Theron told him.
De Ruyter felt somewhat insulted but maintained a straight face. “I thought to myself, surely, it can’t be that bad. He’s probably just angling for a job by exaggerating the extent of the problem.”
Theron unrolled a series of A3 printouts on De Ruyter’s desk, detailing with spider graphs a web of connections that touched just about every part of Eskom.
“If this was to be believed, we had become the proverbial goose that laid the golden eggs for the corrupt and the crooked,” De Ruyter said.
“I was still a little sceptical. Could the looting really be as pervasive as the spider graphs indicated? It seemed scarcely believable that we could still be so captured.”
As the months passed, De Ruyter increasingly realised that Theron was one of the few people brave enough to speak truth to power.
“I was indeed the inadvertent Tony Soprano of the power industry,” De Ruyter said.