ANC secretary-general Fikile Mbalula has told media that the ANC served legal papers on Eskom and its former CEO, André de Ruyter.
This comes after De Ruyter appeared on E-tv’s My Guest Tonight with Annika Larsen and implicated the ANC in widespread corruption at the state-owned power utility.
De Ruyter did not mince words during the interview, saying that the evidence suggests Eskom is a feeding trough for the ANC.
He also said a high-level politician was in bed with coal cartels, and that Kusile power station’s specifications were manipulated to favour ANC-connected boiler supplier Hitachi.
This led to the catastrophic flue duct breakdown at the power station, wiping enough capacity to mitigate over two stages of load-shedding off the grid.
ANC general-secretary Fikile Mbalula issued a statement on Sunday with an ultimatum for De Ruyter — give evidence for his allegations in seven days or face charges.
Responding to media questions on Friday, Mbalula said the ultimatum was formally delivered as legal papers this week.
“If he doesn’t respond in the next seven days, we take further steps,” Mbalula said.
“Because we think that there is something illegal committed there. We don’t care whether the person who’s mentioned — whoever they are — they must stand for their sins,” said Mbalula.
“The ANC is a political party…[and] has not given anyone mandate to go and mess up with the CEO of Eskom.”
Mbalula said the ANC would like to know if individuals have gone to Eskom and done business with the power utility in the ANC’s name.
The ANC secretary-general and sitting transport minister then launched into a confusing ramble, making vague racialised counter-accusations about who the real beneficiaries at Eskom are.
“We can’t just be lumped by somebody who is a businessman making business. ANC members who are businesspeople — they do have a right to be in business. We must ask a lot of questions, including about Eskom. Who is making money at Eskom? Is it black people?” he asked.
“Which companies are benefiting at Eskom? Why is the media not investigating that rather than to attack the soft target — ANC?”
Mbalula argued that accusing the ANC of stealing money from Eskom is nonsensical because the party could not pay salaries too long ago.
“Who are the people who are making a lot of money at Eskom? Now we are told in these corridors by André de Ruyter that we account for the largest chunk of that money. But we didn’t have money to pay staff,” he said.
“And we are told we are beneficiaries there. And we are about to engage in the biggest heist of renewables.”
Mbalula said they couldn’t allow the image of the ANC to be battered, arguing that other political parties would not stand for being called corrupt without evidence.
Without prompting, he addressed allegations that the ANC is acting counter to its stated values of supporting whistleblowers.
“When we challenge De Ruyter, we are told we are suppressing whistleblowers. Where did the whistleblower go? [Are] the E-tv studios [a] whistleblowing office? It’s not,” Mbalula stated.
“When somebody convenes a… one-on-one interview and says what they want to say, that is not whistleblowing. You are basically playing to the gallery without doing what the law requires of you as the authority of the law to do.”
Mbalula said the law compels De Ruyter to take his allegations and evidence to the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI) — the Hawks.
“When you’ve got corruption, you report it to the Hawks. You don’t report to the minister. What do you want the minister to do about stealing?” he said.
“PRECCA informs De Ruyter to do exactly that [report corruption to the police].”
Mbalula’s statements are at odds with De Ruyter’s, who told Larsen during the interview they tried several avenues to report corruption at Eskom.
In one instance, De Ruyter said they held a meeting with the South African Police Service (SAPS) and the State Security Agency (SSA).
“We had significant difficulty energising senior levels of SAPS,” De Ruyter stated.
“We shared chapter and verse what we’d found obviously in a way that protected our sources; the [SAPS] generals and SSA colleagues were aghast and said, ‘you know, this is completely unacceptable, we will immediately start acting on this’ and then nothing happened.”
Even more troubling was when De Ruyter reported that a high-level politician was involved with coal cartels plaguing Eskom to a senior government minister.
“The minister looked at a senior official and said, ‘I guess that it was inevitable that it would come out anyway’, which suggests that this wasn’t news,” De Ruyter said.
Similarly, De Ruyter raised concerns with a senior government minister about attempts to water down anti-corruption controls around $8.5 billion (R156 billion) in funding from countries like the US and Germany for South Africa’s “just energy transition”.
The funding is intended to help South Africa decommission ageing coal-fired power plants over several years, switch to cleaner forms of electricity generation, and support workers affected by the change.
The minister told De Ruyter he had to be “pragmatic”.
“In order to pursue the greater good, you have to enable some people to eat a little bit,” they said, according to De Ruyter.
Although De Ruyter declined to identify the high-level politician or the ministers he spoke to in the interview, Pravin Gordhan has since confirmed he was at least one of these ministers to whom De Ruyter spoke.