Former Eskom manager claims Koko intimidated him for testifying

Matshela Koko. Picture: Felix Dlangamandla/Netwerk24
Matshela Koko. Picture: Felix Dlangamandla/Netwerk24

A witness in Eskom’s disciplinary hearing against former acting chief executive, Matshela Koko, claims that he has faced intimidation for testifying against Koko.

France Hlakudi, who resigned as the power utility’s contract manager last week, has written to Koko’s lawyers complaining about threats and that Koko had been making “defamatory” and “injurious” allegations against him.

Koko, who is alleged to have a close relationship with the Gupta family, was suspended in May for allegedly failing to declare accurately and in a timely manner that his stepdaughter, Koketso Choma (26), was doing business with Eskom Generation and her company allegedly received contracts worth over R1 billion.

Koko was head of generation before he was appointed as acting chief executive.

He allegedly undermined or usurped powers of other executives when he was appointed group chief executive and demanded the removal of Arup Tata project manager, Gobal Kambi, from Kusile Power Station.

Koko is also accused of having demanded Hlakudi’s removal from Kusile and removing a tender committee’s submission about negotiating with a company for cabling.

It is unclear if Hlakudi’s resignation has anything to do with the alleged intimidation.

A letter that Hlakudi’s legal representatives from Knowles Husain Lindsay Incorporate wrote to Eskom and Koko’s lawyers, says:

• On October 24 2017, your client tweeted that our client was corrupt. This allegation is untrue and again, was intended to defame and injure our client;

• On November 1 2017, your client continued the publication of defamatory and injurious allegations against our client;

• Your client’s aforesaid conduct is unlawful. Our client demands that your client forthwith ceases such conduct. Our client reserves his rights to institute such action as he might be advised in respect of such conduct and of any repetition thereof;

• At 17:46 on November 2 2017, your client sent ours a text message which read as follows: “Mootlwa o hlomola ke omongwe mootlwa”.

• At 16:43 on November 3 2017, your client sent ours a further text message which read as follows: “A wa di gadikela go di phura….”.

“We are instructed that the above messages are idioms in the Sepedi language. Their translation into English does not convey the full extent of their meaning and we will therefore not translate them in this letter. However, we are instructed that both messages are directed against our client by virtue of him being a witness for Eskom in your client’s disciplinary hearing,” the letter continues.

“Mootlwa o hlomola ke omongwe mootlwa” is an idiom, when loosely translated means that “a thorn is used to remove another thorn” and it means that to uproot a problem you must use the same thing that caused it.

A loose translation of “A wa di gadikela go di phura…” is that “you are not going to chew the nuts you are frying”.

Koko denied intimidating Hlakudi and said that he had not had any communication with him in last 10 months.

“The logical place for him to lodge a complaint is not the newspapers but the police,” said Koko. “I have had no relationship or contact with him over the past 10 months”.

Eskom spokesperson, Khulu Phasiwe, did not respond to written questions sent to him yesterday about Hlakudi’s complaint.

Hlakudi may decide not to continue testifying against Koko since he has resigned with immediate effect and that may lead to the disciplinary process against Koko crumbling.

Meanwhile another key witness, group executive for group capital, Abram Masango, was given a notice of suspension by acting group chief executive, Sean Maritz, last week on unspecified allegations of undeclared conflict of interest and general corruption.

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