Eskom’s Sikonathi Mantshantsha on righting the wrongs

Eskom spokersperson Sikonathi Mantshantsha took centre stage in last night’s BizNews Power Hour, with the ex-journalist pulling no punches as the embroiled parastatal slowly seems to be kicking into gear. Ex-Nampak chief executive Andre De Ruyter took on the unenviable task of leading the parastatal at the beginning of 2020, with a host of legacy and financial issues that have plagued the power-producer over the last decade. As with all matters of controversy, there have been divided opinions on De Ruyter’s progress since his appointment fifteen months ago. Given the importance of Eskom to South Africa’s economic landscape, every citizen has a vested interest in this issue. – Justin Rowe-Roberts 

On leaving the Financial Mail to take on the job as Eskom Spokesperson: 

I knew that it was going to be a very difficult and horrible job, you could say. Remember, I had dedicated a lot of my journalism time to covering Eskom, and I believed I knew exactly what I was getting myself into. And I must say, I have not been disappointed.

On Mike Lomas, ex-Group Five chief executive being brought into the tubular construction corruption saga:

I can tell you that, unlike with regards to these allegations and indeed this investigation that Media24 has published on the Eskom files and in particular the matter that you are referring to. It’s a matter, you will remember very well back in 2019, there were arrests. I must say with quite some disappointment that the only arrests in the many cases of corruption that Eskom has reported with the police, there were four people arrested and Mike Lomas will possibly be the fifth if he finally gets to arrive in South Africa through the extradition. It’s quite one of those things and hopefully the start of prosecutions that South Africans have been yearning for since the evidence of corruption has emerged.

On how much is alleged to be stolen in the tubular construction corruption case: 

It’s impossible for anyone to say with any authority how much the scam has been – the fraud, the corruption. This is because some of these contracts will have worked themselves out of the system. For example, someone who was building a certain part of Medupi and may have now completed their job, only later people would discover some evidence of malfeasance, which is the case here on this particular construction matter. So there are contracts that are still ongoing and that are under investigation. There are others that have been completed and that are obviously under investigation. And that is why I say we have not seen many arrests.

On whether the banks have responsibility in questioning money flows in corruption scandals:

I mean, it would not have been possible without the assistance of the banks to pull this kind of heist on South Africa over the past 10 years. I can tell you now, if I knew an answer to your question, how was this possible – I probably would be sipping some nice drinks on an unknown desert somewhere if I knew how you pull off these kinds of heists. But certainly the banks must stand up. We did see quite a lot of this activity coming to a halt and should head south. The banks kept up the pressure and they could have closed down a whole lot of this. But you and I, unfortunately, as journalists, have to just sit there and report on the matters and hope that one day someone in authority will stand up and do the right thing.

On whether we’ve passed the critical point towards recovery: 

I represent Eskom and I have to tell you about Eskom, so I will answer your question in relation to Eskom. A whole lot has been achieved at Eskom over the past two to three years with regards to cleaning up the corruption and indeed the operations. That’s not to say that we are now home and dry. As you know, we can announce load shedding any day and that is a fact that we have to live with for a while. I am encouraged by the fact that the team that I work for, the management team and the board that I work for will not do what perhaps some teams did in the past. Pretend there is no corruption, pretend everything is hunky dory when we get to know or have a whiff of any evidence of wrongdoing on the part of people working at Eskom or of suppliers that we get to the bottom of and investigate properly and to d0 what should be done. So that gives me hope.

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