BMF calls for De Ruyter's suspension during racism probe

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Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter (DEON RATH)
Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter (DEON RATH)

The Black Management Forum (BMF) wants Eskom chief executive André De Ruyter to be suspended pending the outcome of an investigation into allegations of racism against him.

De Ruyter indicated on Monday that although he welcomed the probe, the Eskom board had decided that he should continue with his duties while the investigation - initiated by a parliamentary committee - is undertaken.

The BMF said on Tuesday it was "astonished" by the Eskom board's decision, as it "contravenes numerous governance and labour law principles". It called for his immediate suspension. 

"...[W]e would expect that allegations of racism are serious enough for the board not to leave anything to chance when it comes to the investigation process," it said.

De Ruyter, who took over as Eskom CEO at the beginning of 2020, will face a probe by the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) on allegations on unequal treatment levelled against him by his chief of procurement Solly Tshitangano. De Ruyter joined Eskom from Nampak, the packing company, and has since his arrival been preoccupied with efforts aimed at turning around the power utility which has been dogged by long-standing operational challenges.

"The suspension is justified in the interest of a fair process that is not intimidating to witnesses," the BMF said. The date for the commencement of the investigation has not yet been announced.

Eskom is currently conducting critical maintenance to its fleet of coal-fired power stations, in a bid to arrest the perennial problem of breakdowns which are often blamed for power cuts.

The BMF says it is not convinced that De Ruyter is the right person for the job and calls on the board to extend the scope of his investigation to include his competence in running the company. 

It said it would be writing a letter to the chairperson of the Eskom board as well as Scopa, to give details supporting their claims on De Ruyter's fitness for the job.

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