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Durban – Despite objections from some unions mobilizing within the state energy company, Eskom’s board of directors has pushed for the appointment of a top lawyer to investigate allegations of racism and abuse of power against its managing director André de Ruyter.
On Thursday morning, the board of directors, led by Prof. Malegapuru Makgoba, announced that it had hired top lawyer Ishmael Semenya SC (Senior Counsel) to conduct the investigation.
The decision is based on allegations made by Solly Tshitangano, Eskom’s suspended chief procurement officer, who alleged earlier last month that De Ruyter had excluded black suppliers in favor of white suppliers. He went on to claim that De Ruyter did this by bypassing normal procurement processes.
In the statement announcing the appointment of Semenya, in order to determine the veracity and basis of the allegations of racism and abuse of power, the board said the chief attorney would be free to request information that it would deem useful.
“The board has asked attorney Ishmael Semenya SC, whom it has accepted, to conduct the independent investigation and provide written results and recommendations as soon as possible after completion. Attorney Semenya has also been asked to make recommendations to be followed up by the board against certain individuals if misconduct is found.
“Advocate Semenya is free to request and receive Eskom documents and to consult witnesses that are deemed relevant and necessary for the purposes of this investigation. The Board requests that Attorney Semenya be given room to conduct the investigation freely so that he can complete the investigation and publish his report as soon as possible, ”the Board said.
When the board first publicly announced its intention to investigate the allegations, the Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) objected, saying it was an attempt to circumvent a credible move made by Scopa (Standing Committee on Public Finances ) in the allegations proposed has surfaced.
At that time (March 9, 2021) Phakamile Hlubi-Majola, whose union has eminent members who work for the utility company, said that the current Eskom board had ordered investigations in the past in order not to investigate a matter, but to delete his favorite executives.
She cited last year’s report in which Jan Oberholzer, Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Eskom, was cleared of various allegations of corruption, dishonesty and abuse of power.
Oberholzer was accused of a conflict of interest when he allegedly failed to disclose his stake in Steffanuti Stocks, a company that does business with Eskom and for which he once worked.
“As Numsa, we would like to make it clear that we do not have a lot of confidence in the measures that the board of directors is currently taking. We have more faith in what Scopa is suggesting and in the investigation that Scopa is suggesting. We say this because the same board whitewashed Oberholzer very quickly in relation to the Steffanuti investigations … We expect another whitewashing process in what is now being announced. It is very clear that this board is determined to support a failed GCEO, ”Hlubi-Majola said at the time.