Koko ignores ultimatum to resign, takes Eskom board to Labour Court

Johannesburg - Eskom's head of generation Matshela Koko rejected the new board's ultimatum to resign within 24 hours or be fired.

He has instead taken the matter on an urgent basis to the Labour Court to salvage his position.

Eskom spokesperson Khulu Phasiwe confirmed to Fin24 that Koko and Eskom interim CEO Phakamani Hadebe met on Thursday, and that Hadebe issued an ultimatum to Koko.

"He was given two options: resign within 24 hours, or be fired.”

As a result, Koko filed an urgent court interdict with the Labour Court on Friday. Phasiwe said the matter was due to be heard on Monday, but might be scheduled as early as Friday evening.

This follows Koko's testimony at the inquiry into corruption and the capture of Eskom on Tuesday, and the management shake-up by government last Saturday.

The government appointed a new 13-member board, with the respected Jabu Mabuza as the new chairperson and Hadebe as the new interim CEO. The government also demanded that the board remove all executives who face allegations of corruption, including then chief financial officer Anoj Singh and Koko, who was recently reinstated after being cleared of any wrongdoing.

On Wednesday Fin24 reported that Koko was refusing to resign from the power utility, saying he believes he still has a crucial role to play at Eskom.

In a letter to Eskom board member Malegapuru Makgoba, he said Eskom’s lenders have been unfairly demanding his dismissal.

Koko also sent a lawyer’s letter to former interim Eskom boss Sean Maritz on Monday, in which he stated that if Eskom wants to dismiss him, it must follow the letter of the law. He was grilled by the parliamentary inquiry into state capture at Eskom on Wednesday.

On Monday last week Koko returned to his job at the power utility as Eskom group executive for generation.

Koko was 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, amount to bullying.

He also took issue with a statement emanating from the Presidency on Saturday, where 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 on Monday evening, with another Eskom executive, Prish Govender, following suit. But Koko's lawyers say he is going nowhere, and that the statement from the Presidency amounts to unlawful interference in Eskom's internal workings.  

Koko’s lawyers added that the call for him to resign “on the basis of patriotism” was unfortunate.

“I simply wish to continue to serve Eskom’s best interests as an employee of long standing and substantial experience of its operations,” Koko said

He took exception to being described “as the face of corruption in Eskom”. Koko said that should he resign, he would inevitably be held up as a “scapegoat” for state capture.

Koko was acquitted in December 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 in August. 

As a result he maintains that Eskom cannot fire him, because he has not been found guilty of anything.

But reports that he violated his terms while on suspension also surfaced this week, and might be the stick Eskom needs to beat him into submission.

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