South Africa’s power utility Eskom Holdings has revealed that police are investigating an alleged attempt to poison outgoing chief executive Andre de Ruyter.
The company’s boss, who leaves the post at the end of March, said the stated incident happened on December 13, a day before his resignation was made public.
De Ruyter became suddenly ill after drinking a cup of coffee that reportedly contained cyanide at his office in Johannesburg, EE Business Intelligence first reported.
Pravin Gordhan, the minister overseeing Eskom and other state companies, on Saturday confirmed that de Ruyter had informed him of the alleged attempt to poison him. “This attempt on his life will be thoroughly investigated and those responsible must be charged,” Gordhan said.
One of the working hypotheses is that those behind the attempted murder did not know that de Ruyter had already quit. The coffee machine at Eskom’s Johannesburg headquarters was out of service, according to a source external to Eskom, quoted by EE Business Intelligence. The executive was served the drink from a different source using his usual mug. He immediately felt dizzy and confused, forgetting familiar words and vomiting.
After taking the post in January 2020, De Ruyter made many enemies as he led a company-wide clampdown on corruption and organized criminal behaviour, including sabotage of infrastructure, at Eskom plants.
He faced increasing political pressure, which culminated in his departure, after failing to solve a crisis in the company responsible of record levels of power cuts in Africa’s most industrialized economy.