Home South African BLSA mum on Project Ostrich, despite providing R18m in funding

BLSA mum on Project Ostrich, despite providing R18m in funding

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Business Leadership SA has remained mum on allegations that an apartheid spy was involved in an investigation dubbed Project Ostrich, for which it provided R18 million in funding, to expose criminal activities at Eskom.

An investigation commissioned by Eskom’s former chief executive André de Ruyter produced a report implicating certain senior government leaders in the alleged sabotage that caused Eskom to fail to deliver electricity consistently to the nation. Picture: Sumaya Hisham, Reuters

BUSINESS Leadership SA has remained mum on allegations that an apartheid spy was involved in an investigation dubbed Project Ostrich, for which it provided R18 million in funding, to expose criminal activities at Eskom.

The investigation, which was commissioned by the state-owned power utility’s former chief executive André de Ruyter, produced a report that implicated certain senior government leaders in the alleged sabotage that caused Eskom to fail to deliver electricity consistently to the nation.

News24 this week reported that BLSA had coughed up R18 million to fund an investigation conducted by George Fivaz Forensic and Risk that included former apartheid spy Tony Oosthuizen in the investigation team. According to the online news channel, Oosthuizen, who was described as racist, was a key member of an apartheid-era secret military intelligence spy unit.

When asked to comment on the involvement of Oosthuizen in the investigation, BLSA’s Matumelo Mthimkhulu declined to comment. In a press statement, BLSA said it had been aware that the investigation was to be conducted by GFFR, which is owned by former police commissioner George Fivaz.

“While BLSA was not involved in the selection of the service provider, we were comfortable with the appointment of George Fivaz Forensic and Risk (GFFS), given George Fivaz’s reputation as a person of integrity and his ongoing collaboration with South African law enforcement authorities,” read the statement.

BLSA got involved in the investigation after it received a request from De Ruyter at the end of 2021 to help fund a risk assessment that would “augment and complement the efforts of law enforcement authorities to root out corruption at Eskom”.

De Ruyter had, prior to his resignation from Eskom, made allegations that there were organised criminal syndicates involving armed militants in Mpumalanga province that were hell-bent on damaging Eskom’s power stations to boost their business activities as service providers for the utility. This led to the deployment of the SANDF to guard the affected facilities.

De Ruyter is reported to have based his allegations on GFFR’s “unsubstantiated” report, which Oosthuizen compiled.

African Radical Economic Transformation Alliance president Carl Niehaus has called for the new allegations about Oosthuizen’s involvement in the probe not to divert state investigations into the allegations made by De Ruyter. He said that after reading the News24 story he was surprised there had been an attempt to discredit De Ruyter’s investigation.

“We should be worried about what is going on at Eskom … and what corruption and criminal activities are going on there. If we were in any other society where people are not constantly having cover-ups and there is no accountability, those allegations (by De Ruyter) would have been taken very, very seriously, and the law enforcement agencies should conduct a thorough investigation with the intention to find out if any crime has been committed,” Niehaus said.

Cope spokesperson Dennis Bloem called on law enforcement agencies to investigate the involvement of Oosthuizen in De Ruyter’s investigation.

“It is up to De Ruyter to come clean, and (he) must not make things very difficult for himself by not coming up and (naming) and (shaming) these ministers who were involved in these wrongdoings at Eskom,” Bloem said.

Attempts to get comments from De Ruyter and Fival were unsuccessful at the time of compiling this report.

In February, when De Ruyter made the allegations implicating two Cabinet ministers, BLSA and Business Unity SA both backed him, despite acknowledging that the allegations were unproven.

In a joint statement, BLSA and Busa said that, although the allegations remained unproven, they were extremely serious, particularly because of allegations that ministers and advisers in the Presidency knew about the continued high levels of corruption and apparently did nothing about it.

They further stated that the allegations threw serious doubts on Eskom’s ability to appropriately manage its resources, including additional resources allocated in the recent Budget.

“We thus call on all major procurement contracts, including those related to the $8.5 billion (R156 billion) climate change fund, to be transparent to assure the public that proper processes and structures are in place to prevent any corruption, and to hold those responsible to account.

“We condemn the attacks on De Ruyter, irrespective of which quarter they come from. Reactions like these add credence to accusations that whistle-blowers are often treated as the criminals they unmask,” BLSA and Busa said.

At the time, Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe said that De Ruyter needed to back up his claims by identifying the two Cabinet ministers he alleged were involved in corruption at the power utility.

“Which ministers? We want people to identify culprits. And then we deal with that issue, (and) then the ANC can investigate,” Mantashe said at the time, adding that such allegations were only intended to dent the image of the ANC in the public eye.

“If you go around and say the ANC is actually stealing from Eskom and you don’t give details, you are actually creating and strengthening the view that the ANC is corrupt. But if you say: ‘Mantashe steals from Eskom’, then society will begin to understand that Mantashe steals, not the ANC.

“My view is that it is deliberate to dent the image of the ANC,” Mantashe said in March.

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