Koko's fight to stay at Eskom resumes

Eskom executive Matshela Koko. (File photo: Gallo Images)
Eskom executive Matshela Koko. (File photo: Gallo Images)

Johannesburg - Controversial Eskom executive Matshela Koko's fight to stay on at Eskom resumes on Friday, when he will face his second disciplinary hearing in less than a year. 

Koko refused to resign, saying he believes he still has a crucial role to play at Eskom and that the state utility's lenders had been unfair in demanding his dismissal. Koko is of the view that several public statements from Eskom and the government, as well as electronic correspondence from Eskom board members urging him to resign, amounted to bullying.

Advocate Nazeer Cassim will chair the internal disciplinary process, starting in Sandton on Friday and expected to run in to the weekend. 

In January Koko returned to his job at the power utility as Eskom group executive for generation, after being acquitted in an earlier disciplinary hearing related to nepotism involving his stepdaughter. But he was again suspended in January after he refused to resign, after Eskom group CEO Phakamani Hadebe requested him to do so.

Getting rid of Koko was one of the demands lenders issued to the cash-strapped facility in order to access critical financing. 

Hadebe in his papers denied that an ‘ultimatum’ had been issued to Koko, who alleged in his affidavit that Hadebe had given him 24 hours to resign on January 25. 

Koko subsequently obtained an urgent Labour Court order to safeguard his position until he has been through all the legal steps for a fair dismissal, including a disciplinary hearing. 

The Eskom executive now faces four charges, including misleading Parliament about the McKinsey/Trillian payment, leaking confidential Eskom information to a Gupta associate and accepting flights to Dubai from a Gupta ally.  

Hadebe said that due to the lenders’ demand that senior executives who face allegations of misconduct be removed, and the need to raise R20bn by the end of February, “Eskom was forced to choose between saving Mr Koko or its future viability and in turn that of the South African economy”.

He argues that Koko was central to the “collapse of corporate governance at Eskom” and lenders refused to advance further credit to the power utility while he remained in place, which could trigger a recall of the R361bn the state-owned enterprise owes, backed by Treasury guarantees.

Koko earlier argued that he was not one of the Eskom executives who is "facing allegations of serious corruption and other acts of impropriety", as referred to in a statement emanating from the Presidency last month. In the statement Eskom's new board was directed "to immediately remove all Eskom executives who are facing allegations of serious corruption and other acts of impropriety, including Matshela Koko and Mr Anoj Singh".

Singh resigned, but Koko said a call for him to resign “on the basis of patriotism” is unfortunate. 

Koko was acquitted in his disciplinary hearing over allegedly not declaring a conflict of interest while his stepdaughter Koketso Choma was a director at Impulse International, a firm which benefited from about R1bn worth of contracts awarded by Eskom over 11 months.

He was suspended from August last year and returned last week.

Koko also stated that Eskom's lenders' alleged demands for him to quit are “unlawful” and “totally unfounded” in the light of his acquittal.

“I fully expect and implore that Eskom will point this out to the funders in the ongoing negotiations with them to secure continued funding for Eskom,” he said. 

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