The CEO of one of Africa’s biggest energy producers has survived an “attempt on his life,” after he was served a cup of coffee laced with cyanide, according to numerous reports.
Andre De Ruyter, the CEO of Eskom — which produces around 90% of South Africa’s electricity — drank the coffee at his office in Johannesburg on December 13, specialist energy publication EE Business Intelligence reported. According to a report from the Financial Times, the poisoning took place on December 12.
In the days before the poisoning occurred, De Ruyter had submitted his resignation as CEO to Eskom’s chairman Mpho Makwana. At the time of the apparent poisoning, it was not widely known he had resigned, with that news becoming public on December 14.
“I have reported the matter to SAPS [the South African Police Service] on 5 January 2023, and the case can be assumed to be under investigation,” De Ruyter told EE Business Intelligence, which first reported the news.
Eskom confirmed to Insider that De Ruyter was involved in a “poisoning incident” during December 2022, and that a criminal complaint had been made, but said it could not comment further.
South African police did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Insider.
After drinking the coffee, De Ruyter became “weak, dizzy, and confused,” EE Business Intelligence reported, citing an unnamed source. He was shaking, vomiting, and eventually collapsed, the source said. The Financial Times reported sources as saying that De Ruyter was nauseous and became confused after the drinking the coffee.
According to the FT, the coffee machine at Eskom’s office was out of order at the time of the incident, and he was served a coffee from a different source.
EE Business Intelligence reported that De Ruyter’s security rushed him to a doctor, where he was diagnosed with cyanide poisoning and treated. Further tests confirmed there were large amounts of cyanide in his body, the publication added.
“This attempt on his life will be thoroughly investigated and those responsible must be charged,” Pravin Gordhan, the government minister overseeing South Africa’s energy sector told the Financial Times.
The alleged attempted murder of De Ruyter “shows the intense battle taking place between those who want South Africa to work and thrive; and those who want to corruptly enrich themselves,” Gordhan added.
Since taking over as CEO of Eskom, De Ruyter has attempted to crack down on corruption within South Africa’s energy sector, EE Business Intelligence reported. He has, however, also clashed with the country’s government, and in December, Eskom was accused of “actively agitating for the overthrow of the state” by South Africa’s energy minister Gwede Mantashe.
De Ruyter will continue as CEO of Eskom until March 2023, while a replacement is sought. His resignation came amid both clashes with the governing ANC party and mass blackouts across the country. South Africa had 188 days of power outages in 2022 as a result of unexpected malfunctions at Eskom’s plants, per Bloomberg.
On Monday, South African president Cyril Ramaphosa said De Ruyter quit because being Eskom chief is a “tough job,” Bloomberg reported. He promised a “cohesive” plan to solve the power cuts.