Former Eskom group CEO Matshela Koko arrived at the Zondo inquiry into state capture armed with graphs and data pointing out how the power utility performed at its best with him at the helm.
Koko dropped a bombshell, saying that despite being one of the top engineers in the country and helping Eskom to win global energy company of the year in 2001, he was fired by President Cyril Ramaphosa. At the time, Ramaphosa was head of government business and deputy president. In that capacity, he sent an instruction to the department of public enterprises to appoint a new board and have Koko axed.
The order came through a phone call from the director-general who was in the presence of then Deputy Minister Ben Martins.
“She said…I call you out of respect and courtesy because I know you. The deputy president is going to issue a media statement dismissing you.
“I thought how can I be dismissed by the deputy president? For what reason am I being dismissed?”
Martins then came on the phone and told Koko they owed him the decency to tell him the statement would be released. Before Koko got home, he saw breaking news headlines that a new Eskom board would be appointed and Koko had been asked to resign.
According to Koko, he took Eskom to the labour court and says it was emphatic the deputy president’s assertion was unlawful.
“I am saying to you the deputy president interfered with Eskom. He said there must be a reason for me to be dismissed. What’s more important chair, that’s an unlawful instruction. The chairman of Optimum in 2012 and 2014 was Ramaphosa,” said Koko.
On what the reasons were for his removal, Koko says he believes the fact that Eskom was owed R1,4bn by Optimum mine was at the centre of his axing. Penalties of R1,4bn were due to be settled by Optimum but a dispute had caused a delay as Optimum had gone into arbitration against the penalties.
“There’s no reason to explain why it wasn’t paid. They queried the tariff and coal price, that was a consequence of arbitration, they refuse to go to arbitration. When it became unpalatable they concocted an agreement. Nobody at Eskom chased it.”
He added that the consequence of his dismissal was costly to the country’s economy as R266bn had been lost to loadshedding and faulty maintenance since he left.
— Bantu Holomisa (@BantuHolomisa) December 3, 2020
Watch Matshela Koko give evidence at the Zondo commission below.