André de Ruyter. Sumaya Hisham/Reuters

Struggling state utility Eskom said on Tuesday that its board of directors would investigate an allegation of racism levelled against CEO André de Ruyter.

De Ruyter has been leading efforts to improve Eskom’s financial and operational performance for more than a year.

The allegation against De Ruyter was made by suspended chief procurement officer Solly Tshitangano and raised at a parliamentary committee meeting last week, after which Eskom’s board issued a statement in support of the company’s executive management.

An Eskom spokesman said De Ruyter had never been accused of racism before but since the allegation had been lodged with parliament, Eskom was compelled to act.

On Tuesday, Eskom said in a new statement: “The allegation not only brings Eskom into disrepute, but it also threatens to detract and distract the focus of the executive team and the GCE (group chief executive) in particular from their critical job of restoring Eskom to operational and financial sustainability.”

Independent lawyer

It said the board would appoint an independent senior lawyer to test the allegation of racism and provide updates on the investigation.

De Ruyter would not be commenting for now but would be given an opportunity to respond by the lawyer, the spokesman added.

The utility is choking under a mountain of debt and regularly implements scheduled power outages that are one of the main obstacles to economic growth in South Africa.  — Reported by Alexander Winning, (c) 2021 Reuters