May 17, 2023


3 min read

De Ruyter: Gordhan, Mufamadi knew about top politicians’ links to Eskom rent-seeking

De Ruyter: Gordhan, Mufamadi knew about top politicians’ links to Eskom rent-seeking

Former Eskom boss, André de Ruyter

Story highlights

    Minister Pravin Gordhan emerges as a scared and immobilised man in André de Ruyter’s tell-all memoir
    In his book, De Ruyter details the funds lost to coal shrinkage, where expensive coal is swapped for discarded coal

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AS South African Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan is due to appear before Parliament to answer questions about corruption at Eskom, former Eskom boss André de Ruyter has set the cat among the pigeons.

On Page 282 of his book, Truth to Power: My Three Years Inside Eskom, he says both Gordhan and the national security adviser, Sydney Mufamadi, knew that two high-ranking politicians had links to cartels that extract more than R1-billion from Eskom every month.   

“In the vacant office of the Eskom chairman, I told Gordhan and Mufamadi what the investigators had unearthed, but paused before dropping the biggest bombshell — the fact that two high-ranking politicians had been implicated,” he writes. 

“‘Can I name them?’ I asked Gordhan, accompanied by one of his advisers. The minister indicated I should go ahead.

“I expected him to be shocked, but instead his reaction surprised me. Gordhan looked over at Mufamadi and said, ‘Well, I guess it was inevitable that it would come out.’ They had known or suspected all along,” writes De Ruyter. 

Earlier this month, De Ruyter calculated that rent extraction, corruption, and procurement patronage were still costing Eskom billions of rands, even though the high State Capture period is widely judged to be behind the utility. His analysis suggests that it hasn’t ended but has multiplied exponentially. In the book, released this week, he details the funds lost to coal shrinkage (where expensive coal is swapped for discarded coal), procurement corruption, maintenance contracts and fuel oil theft. 

De Ruyter initiated a private investigation when scores of cases lodged with the police went nowhere. He writes that as a result, the National Prosecuting Authority and the police have started investigations, some charges have been laid and certain cases are now before the courts.

Gordhan emerges throughout the book as a moral but now worn-out minister. In one scene, De Ruyter visits Gordhan at his home to brief him on the corruption and sabotage that he calculates is responsible for between one and two stages of load shedding. Gordhan is so nervous that he takes away De Ruyter’s phone and puts it near a television that he puts on high volume — as if he fears his home is bugged.  

A frayed relationship

Either fear or political loyalty immobilises him from acting to secure greater energy security through political cover for Eskom’s transition and reform. A significant theme of De Ruyter’s book is how ANC politics is consistently ranked above national concerns in the management of Eskom and broader energy policy. While the two men initially enjoyed a common agenda to reform Eskom, that relationship had frayed by the end of De Ruyter’s tenure earlier this year. 

“He told me I should listen more and speak less. I was quite taken aback,” writes De Ruyter. 

De Ruyter: Gordhan, Mufamadi knew about top politicians’ links to Eskom rent-seeking

SA Public Enterprises Minister, Pravin Gordham

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De Ruyter: Gordhan, Mufamadi knew about top politicians’ links to Eskom rent-seeking

SA national security adviser, Sydney Mufamadi

When De Ruyter’s hardball interview with journalist Annika Larsen aired on, first revealing the existence of several cartels looting Eskom, Gordhan hit back. He said De Ruyter had spent time swanning about overseas rather than walking the Eskom power plants. The former CEO’s book is a compendium of power plant visits. He witnesses a wasteland of breakdowns caused by incompetence or sabotage.  

This week, South Africa surpassed the total load shedding recorded for all of 2022, and it’s not even halfway through the year. There have been more Stage 6 power cuts in the first 4½ months of 2023 than in any other complete year. The country is buckling under the weight. On Thursday, Eskom will brief the government on its winter outlook.  

On Tuesday, Eskom said: “The risk of a national blackout, while inherent to the operation of an extensive power system, has an extremely low likelihood of materialising, given the implementation of several control measures, including load shedding.” 

Acting CEO Calib Cassim said he was not losing sleep in fear of a grid collapse. DM


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