Koko mixed politics with work at Eskom, inquiry hears | Fin24
 
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Koko mixed politics with work at Eskom, inquiry hears

Feb 28 2018 17:52
Lameez Omarjee

Cape Town – Former top Eskom executive Matshela Koko would treat employees differently if they had different political views to his, the Eskom Inquiry heard on Wednesday.

Suspended Eskom executive Abram Masango told the portfolio committee on public enterprises that Koko had undermined his authority when he was working at the Kusile Power Station because of political differences. 

He also claimed that his identity as the author of a whistleblower report had been leaked to Koko by someone within the power utility. 

But Koko, speaking to Fin24 after the proceedings ended, described Masango's testimony as “preposterous”, saying that political differences had never influenced hos work at the power utility. 

Masango, the power utility's former group executive for group capital, was suspended last year. 

In his testimony on Wednesday Masango alleged that Koko had instructed a general in the SANDF to "remove" employees from the Kusile Power Station Project.

The general had informed Masango, then Kusile's general manager, of this instruction.

Masango said no reasons were given. Eventually Masango said he managed to arrange with the project director at Kusile, France Hlakudi, to meet with Koko to discuss what what going on.

But he said Koko did not give the two of them any reasons, and instead said it was a "command and control" matter. 

The wrong man

Masango said that, after requesting Hlakudi leave the office, he confronted Koko about what he meant, and asked him why the general was there. 

“His [Koko’s] specific words were, ‘You Abram, you are supporting the wrong politicians’.”

This was a reference to then Mpumalanga premier DD Mabuza in particular, Masango said.

Masango told the committee he then told Koko that he was not supporting Mabuza.

“The meeting didn’t end well. I ended up leaving.”

Masango said he then again met with Hlakudi to explain that he did not get any reasons to remove the employees, but that it was best to follow the instructions of Koko, who was acting CEO at the time.

Whistleblower report

Masango said that he had a good relationship with Koko until 2016.

“Our relationship became strained when I started becoming aware of his unprofessional conduct,” he said. 

He also told the committee that Koko appeared to have conferred with Gupta business associate Salim Essa when making staffing decisions at the power utility.

In his 2017 whistleblower report, he said he raised concerns over Koko’s conduct which included allegedly flouting due processes.

Eskom's chairperson at the time, Ben Ngubane, called a special board meeting in March 2017 to discuss the suspension of Koko, based on the contents of the report.

Masango alleged that former public enterprises minister Lynne Brown then intervened to put a halt to Koko's suspension.

Brown previously slammed media reports saying she had prevented Koko from being suspended in March 2017, saying these were nothing but gossip. 

A few days after the board met, Ngubane called a meeting with Koko and Masango and asked them to resolve their issues and work together. This, Masango said, revealed to him that Ngubane had told Koko that he was in fact the whistleblower, which compromised his position and safety.

‘I did not meddle in politics’

Koko, who had been following Masango’s testimony, told Fin24 on Wednesday afternoon that the allegations that he had allowed politics to influence his work were “preposterous”. 

“I find it extremely far fetched. I was an executive of Eskom, I did not meddle in politics,” he said.

He added that up until now, no one had known who the whistleblower was, contrary to Masango’s testimony.

Speaking of allegations that he intimidated individuals, Koko said: “I know nothing of the threats they talk about.”

Koko, who eventually resigned from Eskom two weeks ago, told Fin24 that he is a “private citizen” now and wants to go about his own business. 

He said that he had cooperated with the parliamentary committee and will continue to do so if they request it of him. “I want to close that chapter and be a private citizen.”

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