Find out more about André de Ruyter’s new book Truth to Power: My Three Years Inside Eskom (Plus: Read an excerpt!)
 More about the book!

Are you ready for some electrifying revelations?

Find answers, insights and candid accounts from André de Ruyter in his new book, Truth to Power: My Three Years Inside Eskom – out now from Penguin Random House!

This year’s most electrifying read.

About the book

When André de Ruyter took over as Eskom CEO in January 2020, he quickly realised why it was considered the toughest job in South Africa.

Aside from neglected equipment, ageing power stations and an eroded skills base, he discovered that Eskom was crippled by corruption on a staggering scale. Fake fuel oil deliveries at just one power station cost Eskom R100 million per month; kneepads retailing for R150 a pair were purchased for R80 000; billions of rands of equipment supposedly housed in the company’s storerooms was missing.

Faced with police inaction, he was compelled to plunge into a world that was foreign to him – a world of spies and safe houses, of bulletproof vests and bodyguards. In Truth to Power, De Ruyter tells the behind-the-scenes story of how he launched a private investigation that exposed at least four criminal cartels feeding off Eskom. While fighting this scourge, he had to deal with political interference, absurd regulations, non-paying municipalities, unfounded accusations of racism, wildcat strikes, sabotage and a poisoning attempt.

De Ruyter takes the reader inside the boardrooms and government meetings where South Africa’s future is shaped, with ministers often pulling in conflicting directions. He explains how renewable energy is the cheapest and quickest solution to our power crisis, in spite of fierce opposition from vested coal interests.

De Ruyter candidly reflects on his three years at the power utility, his successes and failures, his reasons for leaving and his hopes for the future. As someone who worked at the highest levels of the state but is not beholden to the ruling party, he is uniquely placed to speak truth to power.

About the author

André de Ruyter was raised in Bronkhorstspruit and Pretoria. After holding executive positions at Sasol and heading up Nampak, he served as Eskom CEO from January 2020 to February 2023. He remains keenly interested in synchronising economic growth, job creation and environmental benefits through a just energy transition.


Read an excerpt from Truth to Power by André de Ruyter:

10: The Land of Porsches and Louis Vuittons

Watching the main exit gate of Megawatt Park from my third-floor window, I was astounded to see a number of Range Rovers, BMWs, Mercs and even a stray Porsche heading for the exit at 15:30 in the afternoons.

Did we really have that many rich employees? And, if so, why were we paying top dollar for workers who were already packing up an hour or two after lunch?

The flaunting of wealth wasn’t limited to fancy cars. As someone who has spent more hours waiting at international airports than I care to remember, I have acquired a fair idea of the cost of luxury goods. Watching some of my relatively junior colleagues swan around clutching Louis Vuitton handbags, equivalent to a month’s salary, and decked out in branded Hermes dresses, Panerai watches and Christian Louboutin shoes, made me wonder where on earth the money came from. I am not saying everyone driving expensive cars or wearing designer clothing obtained their wealth through illicit means, but considering the opulence displayed by employees of a state-owned enterprise, it was certainly suspicious. Either Eskom employees were living way beyond their means, or they had access to funds from other sources.

It didn’t take Sherlock Holmes to figure out what was afoot.

Flaunting it was the way to go, because putting money in your bank account could attract the scrutiny of Eskom’s internal audit department, the Financial Intelligence Centre or the South African Revenue Service (SARS). So, what do you do with R100 000 in hot, illicit cash? You go to the Louis Vuitton shop.

Similarly, it turned out that several senior Eskom managers were also gifted cattle farmers, registering farms in Limpopo in the names of cousins and other relatives. Doing anything in your own name or your spouse’s name would be picked up in a lifestyle audit. As happens when a farmer tries to trap jackal, the ever-tightening anti-corruption net had merely resulted in ever-smarter criminals, skilled in evading detection. I was told of one less-than-honest Eskom manager who glibly boasted that a lifestyle audit wouldn’t pick up the cattle delivered to your farm, as you could claim preternatural fecundity in your herd. Clearly, the deceitful habits formed during the state capture era had not yet been broken.

During this dark chapter in our nation’s history, political interference and widespread corruption in state-owned enterprises was the norm. President Jacob Zuma and his cohorts, including the infamous Gupta family, infiltrated the highest levels of these organisations by appointing pliable deployees to key management and board positions.

Together with its state-owned sisters like Transnet and South African Airways, Eskom bled a veritable ocean of money into the coffers of the state capture brigade. Calculating the total cost of state capture is a complex exercise, but some have estimated it as high as R1 trillion. President Cyril Ramaphosa put the amount at R500 billion but testified before the Zondo Commission that the full cost may never be known.

Eskom was a ripe peach waiting to be plucked. With a procurement bill north of R140 billion per annum and a capital expenditure budget exceeding R35 billion per annum (even following the completion of major construction activities at Medupi and Kusile), the opportunities for looting were everywhere.

The effective abandonment of all principles of good corporate governance made it possible for the Guptas to execute one of their most audacious schemes through the attempted capture of the Optimum colliery. Astoundingly, Eskom’s board voted to aid them in this endeavour by rubber-stamping financial assistance of more than two billion rand. On 9 December 2015, the day before Tegeta (a Gupta company) concluded the deal to buy Optimum Coal Holdings (OCH) from Glencore, the Eskom board approved a prepayment of R1.6 billion to Optimum, using the ruse that this was for the supply of coal to Eskom’s Hendrina power station. A day later, this payment was reclassified as a guarantee. On 11 April 2016, the Eskom board approved a further payment of R659 million, this time to Tegeta, purportedly for the supply of coal to Eskom’s Arnot power station. Both transactions were a clever sham used by Tegeta to use Eskom’s money to pay the purchase price for OCH. The Zondo Commission concluded that these payments ‘were made with the single purpose of ensuring that the Guptas’ deal in terms of which they acquired the Glencore coal interests did not fall through for want of finance on the part of the Guptas’. The Zondo Commission ultimately recommended that the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) should prosecute Koko and Molefe for their involvement in numerous state capture matters.

When reading through the minutes of the board meeting that allowed all of this to happen, I was struck by the sheer sense of normality that had been created, as if these egregious acts were entirely within the normal course of Eskom’s business. Board members displayed neither outrage nor courage. They didn’t question these decisions and were only too happy to acquiesce in criminal acts.

Of course, the looting was not confined to the executive floor of Megawatt Park. Once it became clear that it was now open season, many employees, ably abetted by contractors and suppliers, gorged themselves.

In the governance vacuum created by the Zuma years, the floodgates were open to all and sundry to get their moment at the trough, with the Guptas only being the most prominent looters. Although they and Zuma hogged the headlines with the grand project of state capture, the millions of smaller and less visible corrupt acts were no less damaging. What they lacked in size, they more than made up for in numbers. Corruption permeated every level of government: national, provincial and local. As former president Kgalema Motlanthe memorably put it, ‘There’s a mini-Gupta in every town.’

Categories Non-fiction South Africa South African Current Affairs

Tags André de Ruyter New books New releases Penguin Random House SA Truth to Power

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