Eskom Board’s Culture of Passivity is Obstructing Accountability and Undermining Anti-Corruption Efforts

Issued by Benedicta van Minnen MP – DA Member of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts
10 May 2023 in News

In today’s sitting of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA), the committee was briefed by the Eskom Board on allegations of corruption, theft, maladministration, sabotage, and other financial irregularities made by ex-GCEO, Mr. Andre de Ruyter.

The early use of the axiom “culture eats strategy for breakfast,” by the Chairperson of the Board, Mr. Mpho Makwana, and the proceedings that followed revealed a striking disconnect between the Board’s strategic intentions and the lack of commitment in addressing the alleged malfeasance which has manifested itself into a crisis that risks a total collapse of South Africa’s electrical grid.

The interactions between the Committee, the Eskom Board, and law enforcement agencies earlier this week laid bare a culture of obfuscation and detachment. These members denied knowledge of the contents of reports presented in meetings they attended and appeared oblivious to the investigations initiated by Mr. De Ruyter. Instead, they focused on the perceived reputational damage caused by the former GCEO’s interview with eNCA a few months prior.

The real threat to Eskom’s credibility lies in these senior executives’ own inaction.

The Acting GCEO, currently in China, was notably absent from the meeting, and the Board refused to explain the purpose of his trip or how it would serve to alleviate the state of affairs. Additionally, his alternate acting GCEO was unavailable, and the legal department rep was also absent, further underscoring the Board’s disinterest. In their stead, Mr. Segomoco Scheepers, the apparent stand in for the alternate acting GCEO,  struggled to provide satisfactory answers to questions posed by the DA and other Committee members.

The Board’s reliance on a “need-to-know” basis seems to have fostered a culture of compartmentalization and limited accountability. They have shirked responsibility for investigating allegations involving a senior politician, arguing that this falls under the purview of law enforcement agencies such as SAPS and the Hawks. In fact, the Chair of the Board went as far as to tell Scopa that this allegation had nothing to do with Eskom! This stance is incongruous with their own state capture and corruption task team, which ostensibly exists to act on information and allegations of such a nature.

This week’s proceedings paint a disquieting picture of a Board characterized by passivity and a lack of corporate ownership. Clearly the inadequacies in the Eskom Board’s culture are inhibiting their capacity to enact meaningful change and effectively combat the pervasive corruption that threatens the organization’s very core and South Africa’s future.