Senior managers at Eskom have started to use secure messaging app Telegram in an effort to stop chats being leaked to the group's former acting CEO Matshela Koko.
Koko, meanwhile, has criticised the increased use of the app, saying leadership at the power utility are cracking down on leaks and communication between staff.
The war of words has been playing out on Twitter - which anyone can see and access - with Eskom spokesperson Khulu Phasiwe hitting back to say Telegram had not been imposed on senior staff as Koko suggested, but is being used so that chats will not be leaked.
At the same time, the current spokesperson and former acting CEO have been hurling accusations at each other on social media about why the cash-strapped state-owned enterprise is in such a bad way.
Koko has been a vocal critic of Eskom's new leadership on Twitter since resigning from the power utility in February. This week he tweeted that leadership at Eskom had imposed the use of Telegram on staff members, saying an atmosphere of mistrust existed between workers and the current CEO, Phakamani Hadebe.
Phasiwe told Fin24 by phone on Friday afternoon that while many Eskom officials used WhatsApp groups and Telegram to share information, Koko was merely trying to drum up controversy over discussions which were not sensitive or confidential in nature to begin with.
"Telegram is like WhatsApp and WeChat and other chatting apps. We have our own group as the E Bands [senior staff] where we share ideas. It’s a WhatsApp like any other.
"But the information was infiltrated by someone and they passed that information on to Matshela [Koko] and someone suggested Telegram to ensure secure communication," said Phasiwe.
Phasiwe said the meetings Koko was referring to in recent tweets (where it allegedly emerged that Eskom could not guarantee it was able to pay staff salaries beyond 12 months from now) were actually between senior management and the executive committee, who discussed the finalisation of the corporate plan and improving efficiency in the organisation.
Allies 'hunted down'
Koko by phone on Friday afternoon denied Phasiwe's claims that he had infiltrated Eskom staff loyal to him in an attempt to access Eskom information. He said Eskom and the Department of Public Enterprises should not blame him for what he said was their continued failure to stabilise Eskom.
"I have deliberately tried to ensure that I have no contact with Eskom staff to protect those people. People on my contact lists were hunted down like being associated with me is a crime. There is a mass signing of Eskom staff on Telegram and that is a fact," said Koko.
Koko said the utility was projecting its failure onto him, adding: "Eskom does not have the b*lls to admit that costs are running ahead of them, and that they shot themselves in the foot by signing the IPPs (independent power producer agreements) without succeeding in raising revenue."
The parties have continued trading barbs on Twitter. Phasiwe replied to the tweet posted on Thursday to dismiss Koko’s speculation as a conspiracy theory.
"Allow me to appropriate Toni Morrison's widely used quote and say that: The function, the very serious function of Kokoism is distraction. It keeps you from doing your work. It keeps you explaining, over and over again, your reason for being," said Phasiwe.
Koko, meanwhile, has argued that recent meetings with senior staff suggest an uncertain future for the company’s ability to pay salaries in the near future.
"The public will judge for themselves. For now and in the version of your group chief executive, there is no guarantee that Eskom can pay salaries in eight to twelve months. You can't keep borrowing money to pay interest. Your sales continue to decline. You can't save yourself. Stop blaming former executives," said Koko.