Eskom manager claims Jan Oberholzer victimised him after his Zondo submission

Eskom has appointed an independent legal expert to investigate allegations that its chief operating officer Jan Oberholzer victimised a subordinate, who made a submission to the state-capture commission about wrongdoing at the utility.   

Allegations against Oberholzer were submitted by the civil organisation Corruption Watch and the South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) in letters to Eskom.

Although neither Eskom nor the civil organisation wanted to provide details of the allegations, Fin24 understands that it stems from claims made by Mark Chettiar, Eskom's general manager for power plant mega projects, who reports directly to Oberholzer.

Chettiar submitted a sworn statement to the Zondo Commisson of Inquiry into State Capture in which he apparently made allegations regarding wrongdoing at Eskom. 

He recently approached Corruption Watch for help since he feels he is being victimised for being a whistleblower.

Mismanagement in the construction of the mega power stations Medupi and Kusile is currently being probed. The projects were delayed and ran billions of rands over budget. Four contractors on these projects - Alstom, Stefanutti Stocks, ABB and Tenova - are being investigated after the payments they received ballooned.

On Thursday, Eskom said that a previous independent investigation into allegations against Oberholzer found there was "no substance" in claims against him. 

But the letter from Corruption Watch contains new allegations, including alleged abuse of power, Eskom said. Accordingly, the board is appointing an independent senior legal expert to investigate the claims. 

READ | Eskom board to probe allegations against Jan Oberholzer

Fin24 has seen the letter from Corruption Watch, which informs the Eskom board that Chettiar is concerned about notices of disciplinary charges he recently received.

Chettiar claims he is being charged with matters relating to a grievance he had filed against Oberholzer last year. He says these issues had already been dealt with formally and settled. Chettiar claims it is unfair to now raise them again.

He also says he is being internally transferred to a position in the human resources department, for which he says he has no experience. Chettiar admits that he agreed with Oberholzer that he is prepared to be transferred due to the breakdown in their work relationship, but that this cannot be done unilaterally.

He believes these actions are due to the fact that he had raised concerns about "certain activity within Eskom" both via internal mechanisms at Eskom and in his submission to the Zondo Commission.

In the view of Corruption Watch, the timing of the disciplinary procedure so soon after Chettiar made disclosures about alleged wrongdoing within Eskom, demonstrates victimisation by Eskom management because of his whistleblowing.

It wants Eskom to set aside Chettiar's disciplinary procedure and to ensure that any transfer is done in a collaborative way.

Saftu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi, could not be reached at the time of publication.

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