Book review: Truth to Power

Truth to Power: My Three Years Inside Eskom

André de Ruyter


Review: Karen Watkins

As a white male Andre de Ruyter fought to become Eskom’s 11th CEO since 2007.

In December 2019 he took over the reins of “the largest organised crime syndicate in South Africa”, according to freelance forensic investigator, Ben Theron.

He soon realised that aside from Eskom’s poorly maintained 14 coal power stations, an eroded skills base and state capture, there was corruption on a staggering scale. The parade of Louis Vuitton bags and fancy cars heading for the exit of Megawatt Park at 3.30pm was proof of what many were doing with hot, illicit cash.

But this is old news. In this book, De Ruyter, 55, describes in detail the reasons for our continued load shedding.

His writing may come across as arrogant but look beyond that, to the 104 cases lodged by Eskom with the police and only 12 prosecutions; of R150 billion he raised in concessional financing while “delinquent” municipalities are not paying their bills and people like suspended Tutuka power station manager, Jabulani Mavimbela, being paid a “big salary for doing nothing”.

De Ruyter does give credit to some trusted sources about good quality coal being exported from Mozambique and Richards Bay for R6 318 per tonne due to the Ukrainian war.

Regarding fuel oil, Tutuka power plant manager, Sello Mametja, led to uncovering a fuel oil syndicate that saved Eskom R100 million per month. Also at Tutuka, in 2017 and 2018, 15 000 MWh of generation capacity was lost due to purchasing parts from emerging suppliers that drives the country’s local content policy instead of from the original overseas manufacturer. At Kriel power station, De Ruyter found kneepads retailing for R150 a pair purchased for R80 000. And a mop ordered at R238 000, a purchase that was averted in time.

By the end of De Ruyter’s second year, bullet proof vests and bodyguards became part of daily life. After a power pylon was sabotaged, De Ruyter took steps to establish a privately funded intelligence gathering operation. This exposed five criminal cartels feeding off Eskom.

In December, De Ruyter almost died after drinking cyanide-laced coffee. The previous day he had tendered his resignation. In February, he made serious allegations about fraud and corruption involving top politicians. Soon afterwards he skipped the country and his whereabouts are unknown.

This book provided me with much food for thought. I ask myself what next? Politicians are in power for five years. Maintenance of sewers, water, infrastructure and power are not as sexy as a billion rand sponsorship of a British football club or a R22 million flag. And who cares if South Africa is the 12th biggest carbon emitter in the world. It’s the next politician’s problem.

Overall this is a thoroughly good read and highly recommended.