ESKOM board is to launch a probe into allegations of racism against its group CEO Andre de Ruyter.

The board said the probe would be headed by a senior counsel, empowered to interview any person that may help to establish the veracity and basis to the allegation.

“The allegation not only brings Eskom into disrepute, but it also threatens to detract and distract the focus of the executive team and GCE in particular from their critical job of restoring Eskom to operational and financial sustainability,” said the board.

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The allegations first surfaced during a parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa), alerted that the utility company suspended chief procurement officer Solly Tshitangano, who had accused De Ruyter of overlooking black supplier companies in favour of white-owned ones.

Last week, Scopa announced that it would investigate these allegations that it deemed serious.

Now the board, despite its chairman Malegapuru Makgoba admitting to Scopa that it was aware of these allegations as far back as February last year, has decided to launch its own internal investigation.

“The board unanimously and unequivocally stands against racism and sexism, and for transformation and employment equity. Simultaneously, however, the board has instructed

the executive to promote a high-performance culture to enable the critically important turnaround at Eskom to be delivered as soon as possible,” it said.

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The power utility is committed to transparency and said it would provide updates at critical stages. It also urged any employee who may feel aggrieved because of racist or sexist behaviour to raise this using internal processes.

De Ruyter has denied these allegations publicly, saying there was no basis to them, and that he would welcome any investigation.