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Media win bid to cover Koko's hearing

Oct 16 2017 17:25
Yolandi Groenewald

Johannesburg - Eskom's disciplinary hearing against suspended executive Matshela Koko slowly sputtered to life on Monday, but was adjourned without the hearing making much headway. The hearing was due to take place from Monday to Friday this week.

The day started with media group Tiso Blackstar, which includes Sunday Times and Business Day, bringing an application for three of their journalists to be allowed into the hearing. The application was granted after Eskom and Koko decided not to oppose the motion. 

Later on Monday, Eskom spokesperson Khulu Phasiwe told Fin24 that all media would be permitted into the hearing going forward.

However, the hearing's chair Mzungulu Mthombeni said he needed further preparation, because he was only appointed on Friday. The hearing was adjourned shortly thereafter.

Phasiwe told Fin24 that the hearing will resume on Wednesday afternoon and run until Friday, with the possibility of continuing on Saturday and Sunday if required. It will run daily from 16:30 to 20:00.

The hearing's first day took place among allegations aired over the weekend that the hearing had been rigged to favour Koko.

The former acting Eskom boss however boasted on Monday morning on radio that a forensic report, proving his innocence, would emerge at the hearing.   

In an interview with PowerFM, Koko was upbeat about his chances at the hearing. He told the radio station that "today was about evidence, not about people with agenda, I'm looking forward to it".

"For the first time I will be able to vent my side of the story and debunk the hogwash that's in the media," he said.

Business Day reported on Monday that the board asked Koko to choose the presiding officers for the hearing, after he rejected candidates because they were white. Lawyer Sebetja Matsaung was also contracted by Eskom to lead evidence, despite qualms about his experience, the paper said.

Koko's disciplinary action related to about R1bn in contracts awarded to Impulse International in 11 months while Koko’s stepdaughter Koketso Choma was a director at the firm. He was first placed on special leave in May, and later suspended while Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr probed his conflict of interest.

The power utility has been accused of dragging its feet in taking action against Koko, while the Business Day article also reported that the Eskom board was interfering in Koko's disciplinary.

While this week's disciplinary hearing focuses on his conflict of interest regarding his stepdaughter, Koko is also implicated in using his position at Eskom to help the Guptas to buy Optimum Coal Holdings and its Optimum and Koornfontein coal mines from Glencore.

The #Guptaleaks emails highlighted Koko's role, but also revealed that in January 2016, Koko took a trip to Dubai where he stayed in the Oberoi Hotel at the Guptas’ expense.

In December Koko was appointed as interim CEO of Eskom, after Brian Molefe's tearful resignation. He had been an Eskom executive since 2014 and in October 2015 he became the executive in charge of generation, which included oversight of coal contracts.

Two week ago the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) laid criminal charges against the suspended executive regarding a series of irregularities, corruption and fraud.

“We have built a solid case against Koko with evidence of misconduct in his role as an Eskom executive and his relationship with the Guptas,” said OUTA chief operating officer Ben Theron.

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