Electric utility CEO André de Ruyter ‘had his coffee laced with cyanide’

The executive of a South African electric utility says that he survived an assassination attempt earlier this year when he started feeling dizzy and nauseous after taking a sip of his coffee, which he alleges had been laced with cyanide and sodium arsenite.

André de Ruyter, the 54-year-old CEO of Eskom, told Financial Times on Thursday that the attempted poisoning affected his memory, impairing his ability to string together simple words like “power station.”

The alleged attempt on his life was made months before de Ruyter went public with allegations of corruption by the ruling African National Congress, the social-democratic party that has governed South Africa since the fall of the apartheid regime in 1994.

De Ruyter told FT that his toxicologist said “this was indeed an attempted murder, not just a warning.”

“Cyanide is not like I take out a gun and I shoot you in the foot,” he told FT.

De Ruyter credits his doctor for saving his life by hooking him up to a vitamin B infusion, which is known as an effective antidote for cyanide poisoning.

He has alleged ongoing corruption at the company linked to the ruling party, and said there was a lack of will from government to stop the graft and solve the country’s electricity crisis.

André de Ruyter says that someone laced his coffee with cyanide.
André de Ruyter says that someone laced his coffee with cyanide.
Bloomberg via Getty Images

De Ruyter has said that Eskom has become a target for organized crime syndicates as well as corrupt politicians because of the massive amounts of money it receives from government and other sources.

“It’s a little bit like a Venn diagram,” de Ruyter told FT.

“There might be pure criminals and pure politicians. And then there’s an area in the middle where the interests of the two intersect.”

Africa’s most developed economy, which is home to 60 million people, is experiencing its worst rolling power blackouts in 30 years due to frequent breakdowns at Eskom’s aging coal-fired power stations.

Those problems are largely blamed on years of corruption and mismanagement at the utility under the ruling ANC.

Cyanide is an extremely poisonous substance.
Cyanide is an extremely poisonous substance.
Getty Images/iStockphoto

De Ruyter resigned last year and was scheduled to leave at the end of March.

But he was removed from his position immediately after the interview with a private TV station aired on Tuesday night in which he accused the ANC and unnamed government ministers of covering up corruption at Eskom and only being interested in their re-election hopes in 2024.

“They want what will win them the next election, not what will keep the country going for the next two decades,” de Ruyter said of the ANC.

De Ruyter said Eskom, which is deep in debt, was losing $50 million a month to corruption.

When asked by his interviewer if Eskom is a “feeding trough” for the ANC, de Ruyter replied: “I would say the evidence suggests that it is.”

With Post Wires