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Racism charge in ongoing row for Eskom’s André De Ruyter

It’s not all good news on the energy front. The job of Eskom CEO remains one of the toughest in SA. The man previously in the hot seat, Phakamani Hadebe, resigned in July 2019, citing “unimaginable demands” which were impacting his health. 

So it’s been a relief to watch current boss André de Ruyter last this long, while doing a fairly decent job of steering clear of politics and doing the slow and laborious work of trying to clean up the trainwreck of a utility.🕯️

As part of these efforts, Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan probably thought he was doing De Ruyter and others a favour by making Solly Tshitangano its chief procurement officer (CPO). The role is an important one, given that procurements are where things went so wrong for Eskom previously. Tshitangano built a name for his integrity when he blew the whistle on the Limpopo textbook scandal in 2012 as acting CFO of the Limpopo Education Department. He went on to become the chief director of governance at the National Treasury – but he seemed to struggle making a real dent in Eskom’s spend on goods and services. It’s led to a breakdown in the relationship between him and De Ruyter, with De Ruyter finally suspending Tshitangano. 

“We spend R140-billion buying goods and services. We are paying more than what we should be paying. R2-billion savings is not a lot, it’s about 4% of R140-billion. That is exceptionally modest, but Solly has not delivered what was asked of him,” De Ruyter said.

Now, Tshitangano has responded by accusing De Ruyter, a white man, of racism. 😲

He has based this on what he alleges is De Ruyter’s treatment of black suppliers. 

Eskom’s board will appoint an independent senior counsel to investigate the racism claims. 

It’s a helluva complication to an already complicated matter. 😬

If De Ruyter really is guilty of racism there should be consequences, but if he isn’t it would be terrible to lose him. Similarly, Tshitangano is clearly a man of integrity. In an ideal world, our public service would find a suitable place for them both.