The board of state power utility Eskom will investigate allegations made against chief executive officer, Andre De Ruyter, the company said on Tuesday (9 March).
De Ruyter is accused of racism by suspended chief procurement officer, Solly Tshitangano.
“In light of the allegation of racism that has been made in the public domain against group chief executive (GCE) André de Ruyter, the Eskom Board of Directors has resolved to initiate an investigation in order to establish the veracity and the basis to the allegation,” Eskom said.
“The allegation not only brings Eskom into disrepute, but it also threatens to detract and distract the focus of the Executive Team and the GCE in particular from their critical job of restoring Eskom to operational and financial sustainability.”
Eskom said the board will appoint an independent Senior Counsel to conduct the investigation.
This appointee will be empowered to interview any person that may be of assistance in the probe, and consider any evidence, and will then report back to the board and make a recommendation.
“The board unanimously and unequivocally stands against racism and sexism, and for transformation and employment equity,” Eskom said.
“Simultaneously, however, the board has instructed the executive to promote a high-performance culture to enable the critically important turnaround at Eskom to be delivered as soon as possible.”
The board is expected to provide updates at various stages of the investigation.
Earlier this month, Parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) said that it would investigate a complaint against De Ruyter, laid by Tshitangano who sent a letter to minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan.
Tshitangano accused de Ruyter of removing suppliers owned by black South Africans without following proper procedures while affording extra leniency to suppliers with white owners.
When this issue was raised during Eskom’s interaction with the parliamentary committee, chairperson prof Malegapuru Makgoba said the reasons for the sending of this letter to Gordhan “arose when the chief executive officer confronted Mr Tshitangano about his performance”.
In the same session, Gordhan sympathised with the difficulty of getting management to perform.
“One of the difficult jobs of any CEO and perhaps even a board is to ensure that managers firstly, that report to him directly, secondly managers at a third or fourth level, perform according to their brief and their role definition,” Gordhan said.
“At this stage, I think it’s important that none of what anybody is saying means that aspersions are being cast on the integrity of the board or the CEO at this time.”
SCOPA said it would investigate the complaint, however, and Eskom has now launched an independent investigation into the matter, adding that it will comply fully with any investigation into the racism allegations by the standing committee.