The Eskom Files: The ultimate guide to News24's Eskom coverage
THE ESKOM FILES
No surprises for News24 readers as criminal networks further unfold
Pieter du Toit, Assistant Editor: Investigations
When the recently departed Eskom CEO André de Ruyter sat down to spill the beans on criminal enterprises plundering the power utility on camera, News24's readers already knew that the state-owned company was in big, big trouble.
In early 2021, we were given access to a cache of documents detailing the stunning scope of corruption largely related to the construction of Kusile Power Station, one of the biggest projects in the country’s history.
Alongside its sister project, Medupi, the two behemoths were supposed to provide in the region of 9 600 MW of generating capacity to the parastatal’s grid, alleviating increasing pressure on the state-owned company and boosting the economy.
But the documents, which we received alongside our partners at the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organised Crime, needed to be analysed, deconstructed, and interrogated before we could consider publishing them. There was no way that we were simply going to repeat what was in them, before trying to establish the sources, their motives and whether the documentary evidence held up.
Three investigative journalists went off-diary for almost three months scoping the thousands of internal investigation reports, forensic reports by law firm Bowmans, balance sheets, internal communications, external communications, bank statements, Eskom memoranda, planning documents, project management logs and more than a few Excel spreadsheets.
We were not going to publish papers without making sure that we don’t have – and understand and can contextualise – the source documents. That, we believed, was the only way in which the extensive corruption at Kusile and the broader Eskom environment could be exposed, and the only way in which the narrative would be able to stand up to scrutiny.
The team developed sources inside Eskom, at all levels of the organisation, and were able to test their understanding of the story the documents told us with them. They repeatedly explained the genesis of the Kusile and Medupi mega projects, how procurement works and where the gaping opportunities for grand corruption lay. We visited Kusile, walked around the turbine hall, saw how the boilers and burners work, saw units 1 and 3 operating at less than 50%, spoke to system operators and blew ash and soot from state-of-the-art touch screens standing idle. And we watched as coal trucks offloaded their deliveries in the coal stockyard.
We published the first story in our Eskom Files series on 03 May 2021 – almost two years ago – after analysing source documents, doing due diligence on human intelligence and then cross-referencing the information we had with unfolding events.
What we found was a company riven by corruption and criminality, where networks of patronage and extraction were owned and sustained by executives at the highest level, where good corporate governance had collapsed, and operations and electricity generation became a means to an end – and that was to capture as many resources for private gain as possible.
Why do we have load shedding today? Why is Eskom in the dire situation that it is 22 years after being voted the world power utility of the year? Why did André de Ruyter resign after almost three years at the helm? It’s all there, on News24.
As The Eskom Files unfolded, the story became clear. Kusile was the single biggest site of extraction over many years, and was pillaged by managers at group executive level, middle and project managers as well as procurement officers for the better part of a decade.
Colluding with private contractors and construction companies, these Eskom executives overcharged for goods and services, approved invoices and established vehicles into which their loot was regularly deposited into. The Eskom Files exposed the brazen theft of public funds and the alacrity with which it was spent.
But our coverage also exposed not only the extent to which De Ruyter and Jan Oberholzer were facing resistance, but how efforts to repair and restore Eskom were being actively sabotaged from within. De Ruyter was very early on charged with racism and improper business practices, while Oberholzer himself was the focus of a probe by the Special Investigating Unit after false allegations of corruption were levelled against him.
Resistance and sabotage later became much more violent, with pylons being destroyed, conveyor belts crippled, managers threatened, and vandalism in turbine halls leading to a marked deterioration in performance. News24 broke these stories, time after time.
The recent leak of intelligence files from a private investigation initiated by De Ruyter has piqued renewed interest in the gangs looting Eskom. Many of the allegations about the sabotage of power stations have been investigated and published on News24 over the past two years. Allegations of the involvement of politicians as overlords in this grand scheme have been swirling around for years. Without tangible evidence that will withstand judicial scrutiny, there is no point speculating who these politicians may be.
We all have our suspicions, but without solid proof, they will remain just that. We, like many other committed journalists in the country, will continue to dig deep for the kingpins overseeing the destruction of Eskom.
There has clearly been a concerted effort to ensure that not only will attempts to reform Eskom fail, but that the criminal networks that have now firmly implanted themselves into the very fibre of the organisation remain intact.
Your support of our journalism, through subscribing to News24, will enable us to continue shining a light on these dark corners.
News24’s Eskom coverage: A guide
News24 has over the last two years devoted significant resources to investigate and understand Eskom – but also to hold management and politicians accountable. Various reporters – from investigative journalists Kyle Cowan, Sipho Masondo and Azarrah Karrim, to writer-at-large Carol Paton, and others – have made Eskom their main focus.
Our reporters have been to power stations, met high-level sources, crossed swords with ministers, interrogated Eskom management and scoured thousands of documents to bring News24’s readers the most in-depth, comprehensive, and authoritative insight into the biggest crisis in South Africa.
This is the ultimate guide to News24’s coverage – and the best way to understand the problem from every conceivable angle.
News24’s investigations team – Kyle Cowan, Sipho Masondo and Azarrah Karrim – were the main authors of The Eskom Files, based on a trove of documents which exposed the depth of corruption at Eskom and Kusile Power Station.
They wrote about grand corruption, detail of fraudulent schemes and resistance against attempts to clean up the company. This is a just selection of stories – all our coverage is available to subscribers at News24.
Power utility’s R178 000 000 000 dodgy tender tsunami
R178 160 990 959.84. This is the value of dodgy "red-flagged" tenders awarded by South Africa’s power utility Eskom over the past decade to companies, including multinational conglomerates, that are tainted by corruption or misconduct.
FBI, Hawks probe General Electric's R30m 'donation' to DD Mabuza Foundation
A multi-disciplinary investigation by law enforcement agencies in South Africa and the US is probing the "strategic donation" of R30 million by the American multinational General Electric (GE) through Eskom to a foundation registered in the name of Deputy President David Mabuza.
Welcome to Babinatlou, the slush fund for greedy Eskom execs
Luxury cars, new property and houses, funding for personal business interests, and fees for exclusive schools were some of the items three Eskom executives splurged on thanks to alleged kickbacks to the value of R76.2 million.
Coming home to roost: How big business helped fund Eskom exec’s chicken farm
Former senior Eskom official and corruption-accused France Hlakudi seemingly had a passion for chicken farming, allegedly soliciting millions from Eskom contractors - including JSE-listed Stefanutti Stocks - and using Eskom slush fund Babinatlou Business Services to build his farming business from the ground up.
Anatomy of Kusile kickbacks: How big contractors funded Eskom execs' 'schools', 'churches'
Contracts between Eskom and four major companies working on the Kusile power station project ballooned from just more than R4 billion to more than R11 billion in a little under eight years- R100 million of which flowed to former senior Eskom managers.
I want no part of it’: How Eskom execs ‘overpaid’ Kusile contractors by R1bn
Eskom paid Stefanutti Stocks and Basil Read R1 billion despite six warnings from construction experts and engineers that payments to the companies should not be processed after they submitted claims they could not substantiate.
'How we do things in Eskom': Kusile kickbacks for execs' poultry farming passion
Major Eskom contractor Tubular Construction Projects seemingly assisted in sending former Eskom senior manager Nonhlanhla Kraai, former senior Eskom manager France Hlakudi and their colleagues for training in poultry production after paying R26 000 for the week-long course.
Resistance and sabotage
‘Documents are missing’: De Ruyter’s battle against corruption as SIU pleads for resources
Key documents relating to multibillion-rand contracts at Eskom have gone missing as an internal battle rages between the power utility's CEO, André de Ruyter, and "those within Eskom who were part of the corruption" under investigation.
Eskom boss De Ruyter cleared of 'bizarre, startling' racism, abuse of power claims
Axed Eskom procurement boss Solly Tshitangano's allegations of racism against the power utility's CEO, André de Ruyter, were "wrong, egregious, false, baseless and lacking any substantiation", an independent investigation has found.
Eskom vs Econ Oil: ‘There is no conspiracy, I did my job’ says André de Ruyter
There is no conspiracy behind Eskom's decision to cancel a five-year, R14 billion fuel oil supply tender within his first weeks as the company's chief executive, says André de Ruyter.
Top exec Oberholzer cleared after sweeping SIU probe into claims of corruption, nepotism
The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) has found no evidence of wrongdoing by Eskom chief operations officer Jan Oberholzer in a sweeping probe, spanning 12 months, that covered allegations of nepotism, corruption, maladministration and conflicts of interest
'Looks like it’s war' - Eskom official after gravity-defying pylon's fall at Lethabo power station
A gravity defying pylon that collapsed without warning near the Lethabo power station in Vereeniging on Wednesday is, according to senior Eskom sources, the clearest indication yet of a deliberate campaign to sabotage the country's electricity supply.
Under the editorship of Helena Wasserman, News24 Business has been at the forefront of helping readers make sense of the company and the dire situation it finds itself in. Seasoned journalist Carol Paton remains the authority when it comes to understanding the intersection between politics, governance and electricity generation. Her colleagues, including Nick Wilson and Ahmed Areff, have consistently provided insight to help our readers grasp the complexity of the Eskom crisis.
Insight and context
Carol Paton | Who is to blame for load shedding: what Mantashe, Gordhan and others didn't do
SA's power crisis has been a long time in the making. But in the past four years, Ramaphosa's Cabinet ministers have done little to alleviate the problem. This is an account of who didn't do what when they could have, writes Carol Paton.
Nick Hedley | There are several ways around Eskom's transmission shocker
Despite all the warnings, South Africa failed to build new power plants ahead of the first rolling blackouts in 2007; and then, predictably, failed to build the extra transmission infrastructure that would inevitably be needed down the line. Now the chickens are coming home to roost, writes Nick Hedley.
100 years of Eskom: From Van der Bijl to 'power company of the year' to SA's biggest risk
Eskom has been a part of South Africans' lives for the last 100 years. This is how it all started, and then unravelled, writes Ahmed Areff.
ANALYSIS | New power disaster rules open the way for a lot more deaths at Eskom's hands
As of Monday night, Eskom can instantly be exempted from all environmental rules, no matter how many more lives it costs, writes Phillip de Wet.
Cause and effect
'Catastrophic': De Ruyter warns of national blackout risk if legal bid succeeds
In his final court submission as Eskom's CEO, André de Ruyter warned that a successful legal bid to halt load shedding at all hospitals, schools and cellphone networks could trigger a national blackout.
Chicken crisis: 10 million chicks culled in six weeks due to load shedding
The chicken shortages that forced the likes of KFC to temporarily close some outlets in late December could spill over into the retail and wholesale markets this year if intensive load shedding continues unabated, SA’s top poultry association has warned.
Treasury working on a credible solution for Eskom's R400bn debt burden
The problem of what to do about Eskom's debt has been a significant issue for SA's risk profile and the budget since 2018
Giant pipeline of new power projects could kill 6 stages of load shedding
Power projects with a combined capacity of 20.2GW are actively seeking grid access or are already in the process of connecting to the national electricity network, according to a presentation by Eskom.
Yes, Stage 16 is a (draft) reality of sorts. No, it's not (quite) as bad as it sounds.
It is true that South Africa is preparing a plan to ration electricity, including up to what you could – but engineers would not – call stage Stage 16, and even beyond. A technical engineering body is extending a standard that currently makes provision only up to Stage 8, in what it describes as an exercise in prudence.
The best of News24’s multimedia coverage of the continuing crisis at Eskom – including a visual explainer by Kyle Cowan explaining why South Africa suffers under load shedding. Edited by Sharlene Rood.
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