5 Eskom questions Gordhan should answer before Scopa on Wednesday

16 May 2023 - 13:56
By Unathi Nkanjeni
Public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan will appear before the standing committee on public accounts on Wednesday. File photo.
Image: Thulani Mbele Public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan will appear before the standing committee on public accounts on Wednesday. File photo.

Public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan is due to appear before parliament’s standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) on Wednesday to give evidence on alleged corruption at Eskom.

Former CEO Andre de Ruyter alleged senior ministers were involved in crime, sabotage and corruption at the ailing power utility.

Gordhan confirmed De Ruyter told him about a senior official allegedly benefiting from corruption at Eskom, but he dismissed it as “allusions”.

During his appearance before Scopa last month, De Ruyter told MPs he did not want to expose himself to further legal action or security risk by naming the individual.

“Having regard to the nature of the criminal and unlawful activities, the sources that I relied on to inform the law enforcement and intelligence agencies have legitimate reasons to fear for their safety. I’m therefore not able to divulge their identities because doing so may compromise their identities and their safety,” he said.

MPs were not satisfied with his answers, with committee chairperson Mkhuleko Hlengwa calling for Gordhan to give evidence.

Here are five questions Gordhan should answer at Scopa: 

Who is the senior official who allegedly benefited from corruption at Eskom?

In an interview with Newzroom Afrika, the minister said there was a discussion between him and De Ruyter on criminality at the ailing entity.

“Mr De Ruyter was the CEO, I'm the minister responsible for Eskom, and we have discussed corruption and the involvement of various people, not necessarily by name, in corruption in one form or another.

“Yes, he has made allusions about certain individuals, but it was precisely that, allusions. And as far as the law is concerned, as far as my understanding of the law is concerned, I can't just arbitrarily point to someone and say that person is involved in whatever the suggestion is.”

Has Gordhan confronted the corruption-accused senior official?

Gordhan said he could not rely on “rumour, suspicion or even what a certain publication calls intelligence”.

“There's a distinction between that and evidence,” he said, adding if De Ruyter had evidence of wrongdoing, he must report it to law enforcement agencies.

What did Gordhan do after De Ruyter told him about corruption allegations at his Pretoria home?

In his tell-all book Truth to Power: My Three Years Inside Eskom, De Ruyter claimed Gordhan asked him to meet up at his house in Pretoria to discuss the state of the utility and alleged crime networks at power stations in Mpumalanga. 

He said while he was on the way, Gordhan sent me a WhatsApp saying: “Please let your driver drop you off, don’t park in front of my house.” 

“The minister lived in a relatively modest suburban home in Groenkloof. I went in and introduced myself to Phindile Baleni, director-general in the presidency, who would also be attending,” De Ruyter claimed in the book. 

“After instructing us to switch off our phones, Gordhan took them to an adjacent room and put them next to the television, with the sound on loud. I told him of the sabotage and schemes that Eskom’s security team and the private investigators had uncovered. Load-shedding was not a coincidence.”

Has Gordhan briefed Ramaphosa on the corruption allegations implicating two ministers? 

President Cyril Ramaphosa last month said he “wasn't briefed on the identities” of two ministers allegedly involved in corruption at Eskom.

Daily Maverick published a story allegedly linking two ministers to four cartels operating within Eskom. Gordhan denied being aware of the cartels' existence but said there was corruption at Eskom, like in other state-owned enterprises. 

Responding to a written parliamentary question from DA leader John Steenhuisen, Ramaphosa said he was not briefed on the identities of senior politicians allegedly involved in corruption at Eskom.

He said the responsibility to report corrupt activities to the police lay with De Ruyter. 

“In terms of section 34 of the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act, I am advised Mr De Ruyter is a ‘person who holds a position of authority’ as the CEO of Eskom and therefore bears a duty to report corrupt transactions to any police official,” said the president.

“Once any such person has presented evidence to an appropriate law enforcement agency, such agency should take whatever action it deems relevant.”

Is Gordhan an enabler of corruption since no arrests have been made yet?

According to De Ruyter, he told Gordhan about the corruption allegation at Eskom during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

“We sat there with our masks on, as we knew the minister was not in good health and had reason to be concerned about Covid-19. Even with a cold front, the windows were open to get fresh air filtering through,” De Ruyter said in his book.

“I told Gordhan there was more than one mafia-type network still active inside Eskom. At one stage, no fewer than five of the 16 power station managers had allegedly been compromised. It’s impossible to turn a utility company around if you cannot trust the general managers of your own stations.”

De Ruyter claimed he told Gordhan there was a bureaucrat in the Treasury who had supplied false information in a letter Treasury director-general Dondo Mogajane had signed. 

The letter concerned the appointment of a contractor to install coal-unloading equipment at the Majuba power plant’s railway line, he said. 

“The Treasury official had alleged that the contractor was blacklisted by the auditor-general, but when we contacted the AG’s office, they made it clear that they had done no such thing. I informed Mogajane, who was very apologetic but took no action against the official.”

De Ruyter said Gordhan demanded the name of the bureaucrat.

“I duly supplied a name,” said De Ruyter. 

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