vrijdag 24 februari 2023

South Africa's corrupted power

CEO of South Africa energy company blows the whistle on corruption

Jorien Leendertse

While South Africans are without power for ten hours a day, the CEO accuses the South African energy company Eskom of corruption and misdeeds. He also left immediately as chairman of the board, after a revealing TV interview earlier this week. The parliamentary committee is now investigating his allegations.

In the hour-long interview, CEO André de Ruyter opened up about how the ruling party ANC and other government leaders would have a share in the corruption within the energy company. He says the ANC uses Eskom as a cash cow, while the energy supply is outdated. Coal-fired power stations break down, not only due to aging, but also due to sabotage, says De Ruyter. By breaking a part, the repair companies that have a contract with Eskom would make money.

The ANC says the claims are nonsense and that De Ruyter holds a grudge for not getting Eskom right. They demand hard evidence for what they call false claims. He has ten days to provide evidence, otherwise legal action will follow.

Millions 'taken away'
De Ruyter, who was CEO of the company for three years, also said that four cartels steal more than 50 million euros from Eskom every month. Eskom's debts would have risen to around 25 billion euros. Yesterday, the Minister of Finance announced that the government will take over a large part of Eskom's debt and invest 13.2 billion euros in the company.

24 hours after the interview, the board of directors immediately relieved De Ruyter of his position. The CEO had already announced in December that he would retire at the end of March. Shortly after that announcement, he was poisoned. He had drunk a cup of coffee in which cyanide had probably been added. He survived due to the quick action of doctors. The top man would have said he wanted to leave the country for a while, for his own health.

According to Harry Wels of the African Studies Center in Leiden, Eskom is just one of the state-owned companies that have to deal with corruption. "Train operator Transnet, which is responsible for the rail network, has largely come to a standstill. South African Airways also hardly exists anymore. It has disastrous consequences."

State of emergency
Earlier this month, South African President Ramaphosa declared a state of emergency due to energy shortages. Eskom powers more than 90 percent of households in South Africa. According to him, the energy shortages pose a threat to the economy and social life.

More and more companies are leaving South Africa, investments are canceled and projects are delayed, which causes problems. Gross domestic product growth is slowing and is now below population growth. Africa's largest economy is getting poorer. "It fits into images you see of people trying to leave South Africa if they can muster it," says Wels.

What it does to confidence in the ruling ANC party will become apparent in the 2024 election. People see South Africa as a leaking tire. Soon you will be standing on a vehicle with all tires flat."

South Africa correspondent Elles van Gelder:

We already knew that corruption and mismanagement were a big problem at Eskom, especially under former president Jacob Zuma, the company was looted. This has been widely exposed by a committee of inquiry. But according to De Ruyter, that corruption has continued and he himself has been thwarted in his fight against it.

It is also interesting that he thinks that there are many people who want to stop the green energy transition. He thinks that the country can move away from coal more quickly and switch to wind and solar energy, but that so many people benefit from how Eskom now runs on coal, and how they can make money from it themselves, that they do not want to move on.

De Ruyter says he has never discussed his concerns with the president, but has spoken to the president's advisers and a minister, whom he does not name.

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