South African power boss ‘survives attempt to poison him with cyanide-laced coffee’

CEO of state-owned power company Eskom, Andre de Ruyter (REUTERS)
CEO of state-owned power company Eskom, Andre de Ruyter (REUTERS)

An investigation has been launched over whether an attempt was made to poison the CEO of a South African power company by lacing his coffee with cyanide, according to reports.

Facing political pressure, Eskom Chief Executive Officer Andre de Ruyter resigned from the top job, it was publicly announced on December 14.

He failed to solve a crisis within the state-owned company that led to record power cuts across South Africa.

The alleged cyanide poisoning was reported to have taken place on December 13, the day after his resignation internally, according to specialist energy publication EE Business Intelligence.

Mr De Ruyter allegedly “became weak, dizzy and confused, shaking uncontrollably and vomiting copiously” after drinking a cup of coffee in his office.

He “subsequently collapsed, unable to walk” and was rushed to his doctor’s room where he was diagnosed with cyanide poisoning, EE Business Intelligence reported.

Eskom Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan told Reuters that the alleged incident “will be thoroughly investigated” and anyone responsible charged.

Mr Gordhan said an intense battle was taking place “between those who want South Africa to work and thrive and those who want to corruptly enrich themselves”.

After officially taking office in January 2020, Mr De Ruyter led a company-wide clampdown on corruption and organised criminal behaviour, including sabotage of infrastructure, at Eskom plants. His last day in office will be March 31.

“Eskom cannot comment further on the poisoning incident involving the group chief executive, which occurred during December 2022, as the matter is subject to police investigation,” the utility’s head of security said in a statement.

Opposition party the Democratic Alliance on Sunday called for decisive action against criminal syndicates that it said were “hell-bent on cementing their stranglehold on Eskom that is destroying the economy”.

The Standard has approached Eskom for comment.