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S.African power giant probes CEO over racism allegations

South Africa’s troubled power utility Eskom on Tuesday announced it would launch an independent investigation into allegations of racism levelled against its chief executive who was appointed last year.

In a recent address to lawmakers, a suspended senior company official accused Andre de Ruyter of sidelining black suppliers.

Thereafter, the struggling utility issued a statement defending its leadership, saying it “affirms its support and confidence in the executive management instilling a high performance culture.”

But in a fresh statement on Tuesday the utility’s board said, “the allegation not only brings Eskom into disrepute, but it also threatens to detract and distract the focus of the executive team… in particular from their critical job of restoring Eskom to operational and financial stability.”

Eskom, the largest power utility on the continent, has long struggled to end outages that have hampered growth in the Africa’s most industrialised country.

De Ruyter, a former packaging executive, took over embattled Eskom in January from Phakamani Hadebe who resigned citing “unimaginable demands” of the job, becoming the tenth CEO to quit the firm in a decade.

Tasked with overseeing a plan to improve the utility’s performance by breaking it up into several units, de Ruyter has enjoyed little success.

It is still repairing damage done by years of corruption, mismanagement and over-spending, accruing billions of dollars in debt despite multiple bailouts from the state.

South Africa has been stalked by years of racial tension, a by-product of decades of inequality for blacks, stemming from the apartheid era that ended almost three decades ago.