IN SHORT: After outgoing CEO André de Ruyter made damning allegations about governance at South Africa’s power utility, South Africans were quick to speculate that his words were being stifled by an independent TV station. But there is no evidence for these claims.
On the evening of Tuesday 21 February 2023 South African broadcaster e.tv aired an hour-long interview with André de Ruyter, the outgoing chief executive of Eskom, the South African electricity utility.
The claims he made in the interview are seen to have led directly to the announcement by Eskom the next day that he would be leaving his job a month earlier than expected.
De Ruyter made the accusations, among others, that the ruling African National Congress saw Eskom as a “feeding trough” and that an unnamed senior politician was directly involved in corruption at the public utility and this was known to ministers and senior civil servants.
The interview caused a furore among South Africans on social media and in the press. But just as soon as people started discussing his statements, others started claiming that the interview had been “censored” by broadcaster e.tv and its pay-to-view news channel eNCA.
Claims spread on Facebook, Twitter and messaging platform WhatsApp that uploads of the interview on YouTube had been mysteriously taken down. Some WhatsApp users also shared unofficial links to the video.
Journalist Annika Larsen, who conducted the interview on the programme My Guest Tonight, was quick to respond to some tweets with a link to the full interview, available on eNCA.
So is there any truth to the rumours that the interview was somehow “censored”, almost immediately after it was broadcast?
De Ruyter leaving Eskom with immediate effect
De Ruyter resigned from his position, which he had held since January 2020, in December 2022, but was reportedly persuaded to stay on in the job till end-March.
Following the 21 February interview it was announced by Eskom that De Ruyter’s departure date would be 28 February but that he would “not be required to serve” from 22 to 28 February.
Eskom has been rocked by controversy for many years, not least because of rolling electricity blackouts, euphemistically referred to as “load-shedding”, implemented across the country since 2008 but reaching a peak in late 2022 and early 2023.
Some South Africans now have their electricity cut off for ten hours of the day.
Standard operating procedures were followed, say eTV and eNCA
The interview with De Ruyter was first aired on eTV on Tuesday night at 10pm, the regular programmed slot for My Guest Tonight with Annika Larsen. It aired on eNCA a day later, at 9.30pm on Wednesday night.
Africa Check reached out to John Bailey, managing editor of the eNCA newsroom. When asked about the claims that the interview had been “taken down” he said that “the basis of this is wrong”.
He said he had been approached by members of the public and political parties asking about “censorship” and his response had been: “I don’t know what you guys are talking about.”
Bailey confirmed that the hour-long interview was first aired on e.tv on Tuesday 21 February at 10pm. It was then uploaded to eVOD, e.tv’s video streaming service. He added: “It would not have been uploaded by e.tv on YouTube.”
It was aired by eNCA on Wednesday night at 9.30pm, and was only uploaded onto eNCA’s digital channels thereafter, “where we always upload any programmes that air on e.tv and eNCA after they have aired on eNCA”.
Bailey emphasised that these were the channels’ standard operating procedures, and that no unusual steps had been taken with the De Ruyter interview.
Megan Rusi, executive producer of My Guest Tonight, confirmed that the interview was uploaded by e.tv to eVOD and not to YouTube.
Someone else may well have uploaded an illegal download of the interview to YouTube, which would have been automatically removed by the platform. This could have lead to error messages claiming the "video is unavailable from your current location".
There is no truth to the rumours that the interview with Eskom’s André de Ruyter was in any way censored by its broadcasters. It is available to view here.
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