Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter cleared of racism allegations

Earlier this year, former chief procurement officer at Eskom, Solly Tshitangano, accused CEO Andre de Ruyter of racism. Tshitangano said the accusations were based on the way Eskom allegedly treated black suppliers. The board of Eskom has accepted the outcome of an inquiry into the accusations, clearing the CEO of any racist practices. According to Bloomberg, Advocate Ishmael Semenya “could find no substantiation for the allegation”. Tshitangano has since been dismissed from the state-owned entity, after being found guilty in a disciplinary process. See below for the official statement from Eskom. – Jarryd Neves

Probe clears Eskom CEO De Ruyter of racism allegations

By Rene Vollgraaff

(Bloomberg) – South African power utility Eskom’s board accepted the outcome of a probe that cleared Chief Executive Officer Andre de Ruyter of allegations of racism.

An inquiry lead by Advocate Ishmael Semenya “could find no substantiation for the allegation” that De Ruyter, has conducted himself in any manner that would amount to racist practice, Eskom said Wednesday in an emailed statement.

The investigation was set up after the company’s former chief procurement officer Solly Tshitangano accused De Ruyter of racism because of the way Black suppliers to Eskom are allegedly treated. Tshitangano was dismissed last week after he was found guilty in a disciplinary process.

De Ruyter was appointed CEO 18 months ago to help turn around the state-owned company, which is struggling to service its more than R400bn ($29bn) of debt and supply sufficient electricity to meet the nation’s needs from its old and poorly maintained plants.

Eskom is also in a dispute with the National Union of Mineworkers, the biggest at the company, after it rejected its demands for a 15% pay increase.


Eskom media statement:

The Eskom Board has received the report from Advocate Semenya SC who was appointed by the Board to investigate allegations made by Eskom’s former Chief Procurement Officer (“CPO”) Mr. Solly Tshitangano against the Group Chief Executive, Mr. Andre de Ruyter (“GCE”).

The allegations included the abuse of power, racial discrimination, poor governance, irregular recruitment, irregular staff appointments as well as unlawful procurement.

Mr. S. Tshitangano sent copies of his allegations to the President of the Republic of South Africa, the Minister of Public Enterprises, the Director General of the Department of Public Enterprises, the Auditor General, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA), the Zondo Commission and to the National Treasury.

Adv Semenya reported that he interviewed witnesses and considered 1107 pages of documents.

Allegations of racism

Regarding Mr Tshitangano’s allegation that Eskom’s Group Chief Executive Mr De Ruyter was guilty of racism and preferred a white company above another that is black-owned on racial grounds, Adv Semenya reports that Mr. Tshitangano denied making these allegations. Despite knowing that these allegations of racism were “wrong, egregious, false, baseless, and lacking any substantiation”, the CPO did not publicly deny them.

Adv Semenya pointed out that “As a Senior Executive at Eskom, the CPO must have known that the nature of these allegations would impair the dignity of the GCE, malign the entire board of Eskom and imperil the corporate standing of Eskom, which is the biggest state-owned company. The allegations could potentially harm Eskom’s financial status”.

Adv Semenya could find no substantiation for the allegation that the Group Chief Executive has conducted himself in any manner that would amount to racist practice.

Allegations regarding governance

Mr Tshitangano alleged that the Group Chief Executive undermined the authority of the Eskom Board and/or the Constitution, and breached Eskom’s Delegation of Authority.

Adv Semenya found in regard to this allegation that, “Nothing can be more bizarre”. He could also find no substantiation of poor governance on the part of the Group Chief Executive or Eskom.

Allegations regarding recruitment

Mr Tshitangano alleged that the Group Chief Executive was responsible for non-compliance with the Eskom internal recruitment processes and that Eskom ‘tolerates a culture of corruption, nepotism, and patronage’.

Adv Semenya found that this “wild” allegation was “highly irresponsible, particularly because it lacks any substantiation.”

Allegations regarding procurement

Mr Tshitangano alleged that the Group Chief Executive’s instruction to the CPO to pursue cost savings and/or the suggestion of options to be explored for achieving cost savings, constituted unlawfulness and/or an abuse of power.

Adv Semenya found that this instruction was “perfectly within the competence of the GCE” and consequently the allegations were “also without merit”.

Conclusion

Adv Semenya concluded that:

– Having had all the evidence, and considered all the documents, I could find no substantiation for the allegation that the GCE has conducted himself in any manner that would amount to racist practice.

– I could also find no substantiation of poor governance on the part of the GCE or Eskom.

– There was no substantiation for the allegation that the recruitment processes were irregular.

– The claim that the procurement processes were unlawful is also without merit.

– I, accordingly, cannot find in Eskom, anyone guilty of any wrongdoing and would be making no recommendation to that effect.

The Eskom board today considered Adv Semenya’s report and had no hesitation in accepting it in its entirety. It also noted that in a separate disciplinary hearing concerning poor performance (chaired by Adv Cassim SC) Mr. S. Tshitangano had been found guilty and dismissed.

The Board notes with serious concern the emerging pattern that when Eskom employees are charged with poor performance and or ill-discipline there is a tendency for them to go public with wild and baseless claims that bring Eskom and its management into disrepute.

The Board deeply regrets the waste of time, money and resources incurred by tax payers as a result of such irresponsible conduct, but assures tax payers and customers that it remains resolute in the pursuit of a high performance culture and transformation at Eskom.

The Board would also like to take this opportunity to reiterate its support and confidence in the Group Chief Executive and his executive team and would like to have it put on record that the team has been mandated by the Board to ensure that they deliver a high performing and transforming organisation by acting decisively when confronted with issues that undermine the Board’s mandate.

Statement issued by Eskom, 2 June 2021

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