Former Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter provided details about the day he was poisoned at his office in Megawatt Park during an explosive interview on e-News.
De Ruyter said it was an interesting morning. He met with Eskom board chairman Mpho Makwana on Monday, 12 December, at the Dainfern clubhouse for a performance appraisal.
During this meeting, he handed his resignation letter to Makwana and discussed the details of his departure.
Afterwards, they travelled to Megawatt Park, where De Ruyter had an online discussion with the president and a number of ministers.
“I then asked my personal assistant (PA) for a cup of coffee. She knows I am a caffein addict and always keeps them coming,” he said.
The coffee machine in De Ruyter’s office was serviced that morning because it was broken.
“My PA left my personalised mug unattended at the coffee machine. She informed me that the machine was broken and offered to make instant coffee,” De Ruyter explained.
“However, by the time she arrived back at the coffee station, the machine had been repaired, and a cup of coffee was presented to me.”
He drank the coffee and did not find anything strange. The consistency of the foam was slightly different, but he thought nothing of it because the coffee tasted the same.
“After 15 to 20 minutes, I started feeling extremely nauseous. I was off-balance, and I started getting confused,” he said.
“I was sitting opposite a colleague and could not find the word for ‘power station’. I said it was a filling station and even a petrol station.”
De Ruyter also started to yawn because of a lack of oxygen. “I started gasping for air and realised there was something wrong, and I needed to get to a doctor quickly.”
His security detail drove him to his GP, who examined him and ruled out a heart attack and hypoglycaemia.
The doctor moved De Ruyter to a day-clinic bed and put him on a vitamin B drip.
“When the blood samples were being taken, I called the doctor over and said we should do a tox screen as well because there is something wrong here. This is not right.”
At that stage, he was shaking badly and gasping for air. “I vomited copiously, which was a good thing.”
One of the other doctors told his GP that he had seen these symptoms before and that it was cyanide poisoning.
During this time, De Ruyter was put on a vitamin B drip called jet fuel. “I think the doctor who prescribed this inadvertently saved my life because vitamin B binds with the cyanide molecule,” he said.
“That very high dosage administered so quickly helped to absorb some of the cyanide.”
The doctor later confirmed that his cyanide levels were somewhat higher than expected. He returned for a follow-up test which confirmed significantly elevated cyanide levels.
He said a subsequent visit to a toxicologist revealed that it was not a pure cyanide cocktail. Instead, he was poisoned by a mixture of cyanide and sodium arsenide, also known as rat poison.
“The sodium arsenide masks the detectability of cyanide in a blood test. It suggests that the real level of cyanide I ingested is higher than indicated by the blood tests.”
When it became apparent that the story would break, he laid a charge of attempted murder at the police.
De Ruyter said he had no idea who poisoned him. However, one of the individuals who fixed the coffee machine had absconded from work and disappeared.
Two middle-aged detective sergeants visited De Ruyter for a statement. “If you are middle-aged and still a sergeant in the police, you have not shot the lights out,” he said.
When De Ruyter informed them of his elevated cyanide levels, one of the officers asked him if he had experienced problems with his sinuses.
“When I asked them if they knew what cyanide was, they said it was a technical, medical term they knew nothing about.”
“Either this is monumental incompetence by the police, or they are not interested in investigating.”
De Ruyter said despite the story making headlines globally, the Hawks or other specialised security units did not show an interest in the case.