CCMA to decide if Tshediso Matona’s suspension was fair

2015-03-27 12:06

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Eskom’s chief executive Tshediso Matona’s legal bid to have his suspension lifted has failed.

Labour Court Judge Benita Witcher struck Matona’s application off the roll this morning without an order, leaving it to the CCMA to make a conclusive determination on whether Matona’s suspension was fair or not.

And until the CCMA sets a hearing date, the Eskom head remains suspended.

After spending the day listening to representations and arguments during his application at the Labour Court in Braamfontein yesterday, Matona was noticeably absent in court this morning.

He may have lost his first legal bid for reinstatement but Witcher said the Eskom board was “not honest with [Matona]” when they suspended him in that he was not provided with the real reasons for their action.

It was heard in court yesterday that the Eskom board decided to suspend Matona because Eskom’s management had been providing “unreliable” and “inconsistent” information to the” war room”, the high-level task team headed by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and which was formed to deal with power crisis.

Eskom’s lawyer Advocate Paul Kennedy SC said Matona had been “frustrating” the work of the war room.

Eskom said in its reply to Matona’s application that the chief executive was not coming up with concrete and proper plans to deal with the embattled state-owned power utility’s ongoing crisis.

It also cited among other reasons that under Matona’s leadership, prices for the ongoing construction of Kusile and Medupi power stations seemed to be increasing significantly. It is also alleged that Matona had been providing inconsistent information on Eskom’s financial position.

“There is the belief that the chief executive has been negligent or derelict in providing reliable information to the war room. But [Matona] is saying now, ‘Don’t worry, send me back so I can continue providing unreliable information to the war room,” Kennedy said.

“In one month the chief executive was saying that the financial position of Eskom is rosy, and next he said it was not good.”

Matona’s lawyer Advocate Andrew Redding SC argued in court yesterday that his client was only asked to recuse himself from his position as chief executive pending the outcome of an inquiry into the affairs of Eskom as resolved by the board.

Matona said in his application that he believed the Eskom board had fabricated reasons for his suspension only to defend his court application, but Witcher disagreed.

“In my view, the fact that the board did not mention this reason is not reason enough to believe that they fabricated the reasons. [It] really shows that the board was not forthcoming with [Matona] as to the real reasons of the inquiry and his suspension,” she said. “They were not honest with [Matona].”

Witcher said the board did have prima facie reasons to believe Matona had been involved in some wrongdoing. She said the “purpose of the inquiry is to ascertain whether there is enough reason to institute disciplinary steps against [Matona]”.

The judge said in conclusion that “only the CCMA can determine conclusively” whether Matona’s suspension was unfair or not after cross-examining witnesses.

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