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Koko - I won't resign for the sake of patriotism

Jan 24 2018 12:03
Yolandi Groenewald

Johannesburg - Controversial Eskom executive Matshela Koko has refused to resign from the power utility, saying he believes he still has a crucial role to play at Eskom.

And he says that Eskom’s lenders have been unfairly demanding his dismissal.

Koko 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 is due to be 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. 

“Our client is not willing simply to resign on the basis of unfounded calls that he do so, insofar as Eskom may believe that it has grounds to terminate Koko's services,” Koko’s attorney Asger Gani stated. “These have as yet not been disclosed to him.”

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, amount to bullying. 

His legal team released documents presenting his view on Wednesday, because of what they describe as "vilification" against their client.

Eskom had not yet responded to the lawyer's letter on Wednesday morning. Fin24 also put questions to the power utility about Koko's allegations. 

It's not him 

Gani wrote that Koko is 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 on Saturday.

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 on Monday evening. 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.  

“It is unlawful and indeed shocking that the government, the shareholder of Eskom, has publicly recorded that it had issued instructions for employees of Eskom to be dismissed on the basis of allegations alone,” the letter stated.

“Such instructions to Eskom are in direct conflict with the rule of law that applies in our country and is an unlawful attack on Koko's rights.”

Koko’s lawyers said a call for him to resign “on the basis of patriotism” is unfortunate. 

'I won't be bullied into resigning'

The lawyer’s correspondence referenced a letter written by Koko to Eskom board member Malegapuru Makgoba last Tuesday, in which he said he would not be bullied into resigning.

In the letter to Makgoba, Koko said: “I have made my whole career as an employee of Eskom and desire to continue to do so.”

Makgoba was appointed to the board in December by Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown and retained in this week’s board shake-up. Koko’s letter was apparently sparked by an SMS from Makgoba the Saturday before (January 13), urging Koko to resign for the good of the institution.

'Face of corruption' to lenders

Koko took exception that he is described “as the face of corruption in Eskom”. This view is apparently supported by the National Treasury, he said in the letter.

He said if he resigns he will inevitably be held up as a “scapegoat” for state capture. He also lashed out against Eskom’s lenders, for allegedly forcing the state's hand in calling for him to go. 

“Apparently, funders of Eskom have put forward termination of my services as some type of precondition to continued funding of Eskom,” he said. “Their conduct is an unlawful attack on my constitutional right to fair labour practices.”

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.

Acquitted in hearing

He said in the letter to Makgoba that it is not surprising that the charges against him were dismissed, as there had never been a "prima facie case" against him. Koko added that he and Eskom suffered “immense reputational harm” as a result of the Eskom board's failure to act appropriately and decisively on the evidence.

Koko said the 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. 

He said the lenders' conduct is not only without foundation, but "wholly premature" in the light of the ongoing inquiry into Eskom by Parliament's oversight committee on public enterprises and the still to commence proceedings of the recently appointed Zondo "state capture" commission.

Taking on the task as Eskom's 'protector'

In the letter Koko also offered his services to Eskom to assist with negotiations, “including to dispel their notions that my presence within Eskom is harmful, which notions arise on false and incorrect premises”.

He said nobody within Eskom has yet come out to bat on behalf of the power utility “to gainsay the many false allegations made”, and that he would take on the role as Eskom’s protector.

“That task will now fall to me when I testify.”

He also believes he has a crucial role to play on behalf of Eskom when the Zondo commission into state capture starts.

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

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