NARROW ESCAPE

It was a close shave for Eskom's CEO in alleged poisoning attempt

André de Ruyter led a company-wide clampdown on corruption and organized criminal behavior
Eskom troubles?
Eskom troubles?
Photo: SUMAYA HISHAM (Reuters)
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Police in South Africa have launched investigations into allegations of the poisoning of state power monopoly Eskom CEO André de Ruyter.

This follows claims that De Ruyter survived a murder attempt after he drank a cup of coffee laced with cyanide on Dec. 12 at Eskom’s offices in Megawatt Park in Sunninghill, a commercial and residential suburb in Johannesburg. This happened shortly after he submitted his resignation from Eskom.

He would later become visibly dizzy and weak. He vomited as his body shook uncontrollably, and later collapsed. His doctor diagnosed his condition as high-level cyanide poisoning, and treated him accordingly.

South African police have not commented on the incident. We have reached out to Eskom for a statement and will update the story accordingly.

De Ruyter previously told local publication News24 that his role as CEO had began to feel difficult, citing a lack of support from president Cyril Ramaphosa’s government for his vision at the parastatal amid constant load shedding.

De Ruyter led the war on corruption at Eskom

He is known for his purge on corrupt staff at Eskom, who have reportedly been sabotaging power supply by damaging electricity infrastructure. He led efforts to turn Eskom around by clamping down on alleged criminal syndicates through corrupt coal contracts. One report published in April last year alleged that Eskom had made irregular supply contracts, coal deliveries that were in violation of the company’s regulations, and made unlawful payments to consultancy firm McKinsey.

Public Enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan told Reuters that an intense battle is ongoing “between those who want South Africa to work and thrive and those who want to corruptly enrich themselves.”

Former Eskom CEO Matshela Koko, was charged last October with multiple counts related to corruption, fraud, and money laundering. De Ruyter replaced him.

Opposition party The Democratic Alliance is calling for action against criminal syndicates that are “hell-bent on cementing their stranglehold on Eskom.”

A 2021 report by Unite 4 Mzansi, an initiative by South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (Saica) and business leaders, showed that South Africa lost $87.9 billion to corruption between 2014 and 2019.

Key regulatory and oversight agencies in South Africa remain underfunded, allowing corrupt activities to redirect money meant for improvement of livelihoods into the pockets of a few individuals.