Criminal cartels operate at Eskom with impunity, stealing billions of rands a month and have brought the utility to its knees.
This is feedback from former Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter, who told the Business Day Spotlight podcast that if he had not spoken publicly about the rampant corruption at Eskom, very little would have been done to stop it.
“It appears that it is, if not explicitly condoned, then at least tolerated, and we simply have to get to grips with the existence of this shadow economy,” he said.
“It seems to me that there are senior people, whether that be in politics or the cartels or both, that are out there and continue to benefit from what is going on.”
He said that he does have some ideas as to who the senior people behind the criminal cartels are but would not elaborate further.
De Ruyter previously estimated that criminal cartels were stealing over R1 billion a month from Eskom, but this figure may be even larger now.
“The amount of money that is available in this shadow economy, in this criminal enterprise, is so large that they can buy influence. They can buy immunity. At the end of the day, they can buy the direction of policy.”
De Ruyter said that these criminal elements are delaying the transition from coal to cheaper, greener technologies out of fear that they will lose this chance to enrich themselves.
“I think only when I said, ‘But hang on, we have got a very serious problem here’, did we see action being taken with the reshuffling of senior police officials in Mpumalanga, the deployment of soldiers to power stations and whistleblowers coming forward.”
“If I hadn’t said that, I don’t think much would have happened, to be honest. It would have been quietly swept under the rug,” De Ruyter said.
“Everybody knows about it, but nobody is prepared to speak out.”
De Ruyter said the pushback he experienced and the pressure he was put under was intense but that it was necessary to bring the corruption at Eskom to light.
“Fundamentally, I had enough information and enough corroborative evidence to suggest that there was something seriously wrong at Eskom, and it was not only old plants that had been poorly maintained.”
“It had everything to do with the existence of organised crime cartels that operate with a very large degree of impunity at Eskom,” De Ruyter said.