Advocate Ishmael Semenya – the senior counsel appointed by Eskom’s board to investigate allegations of racism and poor governance levelled by the power utility’s former chief procurement officer (CPO) Solly Tshitangano against group CEO Andre de Ruyter has found no substance to the claims.
This was confirmed by Eskom in a strongly worded statement on Wednesday, which highlighted Semenya’s findings and also lambasted employees charged with poor performance who “make baseless claims that bring Eskom and its management into disrepute”.
The ruling by Semenya comes just a week after Tshitangano was dismissed from his position following an independent disciplinary hearing into his poor performance, chaired by former judge Adv Nazeer Cassim.
Eskom’s board said that it had received the report from Adv Semenya into allegations including abuse of power, racial discrimination, poor governance, irregular recruitment, irregular staff appointments as well as unlawful procurement.
It noted that Tshitangano had sent copies of his allegations to President Cyril Ramaphosa, Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan and the department’s director-general, in addition to the auditor-general, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa), the Zondo Commission and to the National Treasury.
In his report, Adv Semenya said that Tshitangano denied making these allegations. However, despite knowing that the allegations of racism were “wrong, egregious, false, baseless, and lacking any substantiation”, the CPO did not publicly deny them.
Adv Semenya pointed out that “as a senior executive at Eskom, the CPO must have known that the nature of these allegations would impair the dignity of the group CEO, malign the entire board of Eskom and imperil the corporate standing of Eskom, which is the biggest state-owned company. The allegations could potentially harm Eskom’s financial status”.
In coming to the finding, he had interviewed several witnesses and considered 1 107 pages of documents.
Adv Semenya could find no substantiation for the allegation that De Ruyter conducted himself in any manner that would amount to racist practice.
Other allegations and the findings:
- Allegations regarding governance
Tshitangano alleged that De Ruyter undermined the authority of the Eskom board and/or the Constitution, and breached Eskom’s delegation of authority.
Adv Semenya found “nothing can be more bizarre”. He could also find no substantiation of poor governance on the part of the group CEO or Eskom.
- Allegations regarding recruitment
Tshitangano alleged that De Ruyter was responsible for non-compliance with the Eskom internal recruitment processes and that Eskom “tolerates a culture of corruption, nepotism, and patronage”.
Adv Semenya found that this “wild” allegation was “highly irresponsible, particularly because it lacks any substantiation.”
- Allegations regarding procurement
Tshitangano alleged that De Ruyter’s instruction to the CPO to pursue cost savings and/or the suggestion of options to be explored for achieving cost savings, constituted unlawfulness and/or an abuse of power.
Adv Semenya found that this instruction was “perfectly within the competence of the group CEO” and consequently the allegations were “also without merit”.
Overall, in his conclusion, Adv Semenya said that he “cannot find in Eskom, anyone guilty of any wrongdoing and would be making no recommendation to that effect”.
Meanwhile, Eskom’s board said in reaction that it “considered Adv Semenya’s report and had no hesitation in accepting it in its entirety”.
It also noted the ruling of the disciplinary hearing, chaired by Cassim.
“The board notes with serious concern the emerging pattern that when Eskom employees are charged with poor performance and or ill-discipline there is a tendency for them to go public with wild and baseless claims that bring Eskom and its management into disrepute,” it added.
“The board deeply regrets the waste of time, money and resources incurred by taxpayers as a result of such irresponsible conduct, but assures taxpayers and customers that it remains resolute in the pursuit of a high performance culture and transformation at Eskom,” it said.
Eskom’s board also reiterated “its support and confidence” in De Ruyter and his executive team.
“The [executive] team has been mandated by the board to ensure that they deliver a high performing and transforming organisation by acting decisively when confronted with issues that undermine the board’s mandate,” it said.