De Ruyter survives attempted murder: report

 ·8 Jan 2023

Outgoing Eskom chief executive Andre De Ruyter has confirmed that an attempt was made on his life after someone allegedly tried to poison him with cyanide.

Speaking to Rapport, the embattled CEO said that the incident happened soon after he announced his resignation from the position in mid-December.

According to the report, de Ruyter submitted his resignation in the early hours of 12 December 2022 – two days before the official announcement. By mid-morning, he was red in the face, disorientated and nauseous.

A blood test confirmed that he had enough cyanide in his system to make him feel ill – but not enough to kill him. It is suspected that he ingested the poison in his morning coffee. A follow-up test this week will confirm whether or not there was an attempt to kill him.

He has since opened a case of attempted murder, the City Press reported.

Eskom announced de Ruyter’s departure from the group on 14 December 2022, with the current plan for the CEO to stay on until 31 March 2023. The group has not yet found a replacement – a process which will likely be a struggle, given the extreme difficulties that come with the role.

The resignation puts Eskom’s leadership team in question, with chief operating officer Jan Oberholzer set to retire in April 2023. Eskom’s general executive for generation, Rhulani Mathebula, also recently resigned from his position and left the utility at the end of November 2022.

Eskom has had many different chief executives since load shedding started in 2007.

Load shedding first hit the country in 2007 under Jacob Maroga, who eventually left in 2009. Maroga’s successor, Brian Dames, oversaw five years of no load shedding between 2009 and 2013, before rolling blackouts struck again in 2014.

This gave way to Collin Matjila, then Tshediso Matona in 2014 and 2015, followed by brief stints by controversial CEOs Brian Molefe and Matshela Koko in 2016.

Eskom next saw Johnny Dladla and Sean Maritz take the helm in 2017 before Phakamani Hadebe and Jabu Mabuza took charge in 2018 and 2019.

De Ruyter was appointed in 2020 and had the dishonour of overseeing the worst levels of load shedding on record.

The alleged attempt on de Ruyter’s life underlines an ongoing crisis of criminality at Eskom – one of many crises the power utility is suffering.

The group is caught in the web of high-level crime syndicates which are tearing the company apart through theft and corruption – stealing coal and diesel, stripping facilities of vital infrastructure, and actively sabotaging equipment to score maintenance contracts.

The levels of criminal activity at Eskom got so bad that the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) had to be called in to guard the infrastructure in December 2022 and to assist security forces in keeping generation capacity safe.

Most recently, the group said it will be implementing a full screening and security sweep of all its active contracts to root out dodgy dealings.

Responding in a parliamentary Q&A this week, Eskom – through the Department of Public Enterprises – revealed that it is making use of various security measures, both human and technological, and various detection and monitoring systems to secure its power plants.

In order not to compromise security measures, the details of the systems in place have been deemed sensitive, and disclosure is limited.

However, Eskom did note that its security is in the process of screening all active contracts, including employees of contractors employed at Eskom sites and companies against whom investigations (criminal, civil or disciplinary) have been launched, conducted/completed, or are in progress.

Eskom said it is also enforcing controls on new contracts and those which are being targeted for modifications or review.

Read: De Ruyter’s exit a massive blow to South Africa: business

Show comments
Subscribe to our daily newsletter