Energy

Andre de Ruyter sued over allegations about former executive

Former Eskom chief procurement officer Solly Tshitangano has served Andre de Ruyter and his publisher, Penguin Random House, with legal papers regarding allegations made against him.

News24 reported that Tshitangano wants De Ruyter to retract and apologise for “defamatory references and allegations” in his book, Truth to Power: My Three Years Inside Eskom.

Tshitangano said he would claim damages unless De Ruyter retracted and apologised for the “untruthful, unsubstantiated, untested, and defamatory” statements.

De Ruyter and Penguin Random House said they stand by what is written in the book and are ready to defend it in court.

In his book, De Ruyter paints Tshitangano as an incompetent executive who betrayed his trust and accused former COO Jan Oberholzer of wrongdoing without much evidence.

He said Tshitangano ambushed him during a Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) meeting with wild allegations against Oberholzer.

De Ruyter further accused Tshitangano of leaking an internal email to the EFF and caucusing with ANC members in the erstwhile Zuma faction.

Tshitangano is also accused of serving “as a cheerleader for Econ Oil and in 2019 had advocated that the tender of nearly R9 billion be awarded to them”.

The Econ Oil contract was highly controversial, and the company was banned from supplying fuel to Eskom for 10 years after allegations of corruption and unethical conduct.

“In my book, this amounted to gross dereliction of duty that would ultimately lead to a formal disciplinary hearing in March 2021,” De Ruyter wrote.

He said Tshitangano went on the offensive and accused De Ruyter of numerous things, including that he was a racist who sidelined black-owned firms for no reason.

The charges resulted in a formal inquiry against De Ruyter, led by Advocate Ishmael Semenya. The charges were dismissed following the inquiry.

“Semenya said Tshitangano’s accusations were ‘wrong, egregious, false, baseless and lacking any substantiation’,” De Ruter wrote.

At the same time, the disciplinary hearing against Tshitangano took place after he was suspended in February 2021 over his role in the Econ Oil debacle.

“Advocate Nazeer Cassim, the chair of the disciplinary inquiry, found that Solly had placed the interests of the oil company above those of his employer, Eskom,” De Ruyter said.

“Tshitangano acted dishonourably and has exhibited all the qualities that make him unsuitable for the position he occupies,” Cassim said.

In May 2021, Eskom dismissed Tshitangano for gross misconduct and breach of duties and responsibilities, among other charges.

“Following a disciplinary hearing on these charges, the chairman, an independent advocate, recommended dismissal as the only appropriate sanction,” Eskom said.

Tshitangano disputed De Ruyter’s version of events and contended that the allegations were unwarranted and baseless.

His lawyers said Tshitangano had established a well-founded reputation for his professionalism, diligence, conscientiousness, and honesty.

They said De Ruyter’s allegations “have damaged his reputation and adversely affected his good name, reputation, dignity and professional integrity”.

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