Eskom head has ‘no idea’ why he was suspended

2015-03-26 15:21

Eskom’s suspended CEO Tshediso Matona hurriedly left the courtroom at the Labour Court in Braamfontein after Judge Benita Witcher reserved judgment in his application to have the court set aside his suspension.

This follows a long day of arguments between Eskom and Matona’s legal teams in a hearing where the latter is praying for the court to agree that his suspension was unfair and unlawful and rule that he should return to work.

Matona’s lawyer Advocate Andrew Redding SC argued that in his suspension notice, his client was only informed that there was going to be an inquiry into the “possibility that power delivery may be compromised by intentional or negligent conduct”.

Redding said this after Eskom’s legal representative Advocate Paul Kennedy SC said there were grounds for Matona’s suspension.

He said that as the chief executive of Eskom, Matona had not been helpful to the government’s “war room”, the high-level task team headed by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and which was formed to deal with power crisis, adding that Matona had frustrated their work.

He said the war room had raised concerns about the “unreliable information” they were provided with by Eskom’s management.

“This was frustrating the work of the board, trying to steer leadership. The war room can’t solve the problem because it is not getting adequate information,” 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.”

Kennedy said Matona was suspended after concerns raised by the board.

“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,” he said.

In his response, Redding said none of this was brought up in Matona’s suspension notice. “It was not said that you are guilty of providing unreliable information to the war room. There was no mention of it,” he said.

Matona believes his suspension was unfair and unlawful and asked the court to set it aside so that he could return to work.

Redding said Matona’s suspension letter was probably “pre-written” before he was suspended on March 9.

He said his client had attend the meeting that day, knowing that the only agenda item was a proposed resolution for an independent inquiry into the affairs of Eskom.

“It is not clear as to why, if you are going to investigate the affairs of an organisation, you suspend executives,” Redding said.

He said Matona was not furnished with clear reasons for his suspension.

Redding also submitted that Eskom had flaunted its own disciplinary code of conduct and had not afforded Matona an opportunity to defend himself.

“He was not given the right to be heard, understand the allegations against him, or be able to respond,” he said.

Redding said there was no justifiable reason that if he stayed at work, Matona would interfere with the investigation into Eskom affairs.

He said Matona’s reputation was suffering and his dignity was hurt as a result of his suspension.

“There is no demonstrable harm and reasons that if he returns to work Eskom would suffer massively economically and in terms of its reputation and functions,” Redding said.

Matona was also in court. He read through court papers and turned to pages directed to the court by his lawyer. He stood up during the tea break adjournment to chat to a woman and a man who had seemingly come to support him.

Earlier on after the lunch break, Matona seemed less relaxed and his eyes stared straight at Eskom’s lawyer Kennedy as he tore into his case. His eyes remained fixed on Kennedy despite him changing positions from folded arms to stretching his arms on the bench’s long backrest.

The CCMA has also confirmed that a date will be said for a hearing after Matona approached the commission challenging his suspension which he believe is “unfair”.

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