Former CEO Andre de Ruyter and other whistleblowers have exposed widespread fraud and corruption at Eskom. Instead of tackling these problems, there is a huge effort to cover them up.
In his book, Truth to Power, De Ruyter exposed widespread corruption, fraud, and sabotage at the power utility.
He explained how criminal networks involving high-profile politicians infiltrated all levels of Eskom’s operations.
At every step of its supply chain, Eskom must defend itself against armed robbery, fuel theft, sabotage, and corruption.
Criminal networks, for example, pay off security personnel and plant workers and force engineers and managers to create fake procurement orders for goods or services.
In many cases, the corrupt procurement companies re-sell stolen Eskom parts back to the utility without any repercussions.
Although De Ruyter’s recent revelations made headlines, fraud and corruption at Eskom are nothing new.
Eskom was a key focus area in the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture, and the Gupta family featured prominently.
When Cyril Ramaphosa took over from Jacob Zuma as South Africa’s president in 2018, he promised Eskom’s reform would be a major focus.
Eskom’s leadership team looked through years of records and found $1.5 billion of irregular contracts, promising to open criminal cases against senior Eskom executives.
“We will continue to shake these cobwebs,” former Chairman Jabu Mabuza told reporters that year. “There may be more.”
However, very little has happened to root out corruption at Eskom. One reason is that the ruling party and connected politicians benefit from the malfeasance.
De Ruyter provided Sydney Mufamadi and Pravin Gordhan with names of high-ranking politicians allegedly involved in corruption at the power utility.
To date, nobody wanted to reveal these names. Instead of targeting these politicians, the ruling party is taking aim at De Ruyter.
More recently, the City Press newspaper reported that a high-ranking Eskom executive is linked to sabotage at power stations.
What surprised many people is that the investigation into the executive and other Eskom employees has been dragging on for years. These employees are still working at Eskom.
DA public enterprises spokesperson Ghaleb Cachalia said instead of holding Eskom and other implicated parties to account, Parliament’s portfolio committee helps with the cover-up.
“In the portfolio committee, there is a large number of people, and you can guess from which political party, who cover it up,” he said.
Cachalia said the committee members covered up for the minister, Eskom, and other government officials implicated in the problems at the power utility.
“That is not the way the portfolio committee for public enterprises should behave,” Cachalia said.
Cachalia’s experience echoes that of De Ruyter, who said he received no help from police, related state security agencies, or the government to fight fraud and corruption.
According to De Ruyter’s Scopa submission, he has reported allegations and fraud and corruption to many organs of state.
- He met with senior police officials and the State Security Agency at the end of last year to ask for assistance in investigating corruption at Eskom.
- He said he reported “the matter” to the then Interim Chair of Eskom, Prof Malegapuru Makgoba.
- He shared “high-level concerns about corruption and theft in Eskom” with the National Police Commissioner and his staff.
- He reported the main findings of his intelligence dossier to Minister Pravin Gordhan and the National Security Adviser, Dr Sydney Mufamadi.
However, he soon realised there was no significant political will to aggressively target corruption at Eskom. In fact, the inverse was often true.
In one case, a contractor working in the procurement department was arrested after an investigation fingered him in criminal activity.
However, soon after the arrest, the suspect was released by the police ‘on the instructions of a senior police officer’.
De Ruyter highlighted that getting the government or the security cluster to act on fraud and corruption at Eskom was very challenging.
This was why he launched a private investigation into problems at Eskom and publicly exposed fraud and corruption through his book and ENCA interview.