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WhatsApp details Eskom's spy game

Jul 08 2018 10:32
Sizwe Sama Yende

Former Eskom executive Matshela Koko allegedly connived with a Mpumalanga man to get one of his colleagues fired at the state-owned enterprise.

Koko had previously denied any link to Eskom employee Mandla Mokoena, who allegedly hired three men to spy on Group Capital executive Abram Masango and other Eskom officials stationed at Kusile Power Station, to find any “dirt” on them that could lead to their removal from the power utility.

One of the men, whose name is known to City Press, deposed a two-page affidavit at Witbank Police Station on March 14. In the document, he alleged that he was tasked with spying and was paid by eWallet for his services.

City Press obtained a series of WhatsApp exchanges between Koko and Mokoena, which appear to substantiate the claims made in the affidavit that details espionage and mud-slinging at Eskom.

The affidavit, written by the man who claims he was recruited by Mokoena and also worked with other people Koko allegedly hired to target Masango, alleges that the spying crew was in operation for four months.

Masango became a target at the corruption-riddled power utility after he blew the whistle on rampant corruption to former board chairperson Ben Ngubane last year.

Early this year, Masango testified before Parliament’s Eskom inquiry about how Ngubane compromised his safety by informing Koko that he had submitted a report to him.

He also told Parliament about how Koko intimidated him. He testified that Koko called him to a meeting at Melrose Arch in Johannesburg in March 2015 and introduced him to Gupta lieutenant Salim Essa, the majority shareholder of Trillian Capital, which was paid more than R500 million by the power utility without doing any work.

Although Masango was eventually charged with corruption, a disciplinary hearing cleared him of any wrongdoing about two months ago.

The affidavit’s writer said he and two other spy recruits were tasked with conducting a smear campaign against and ruining the careers of Masango, Kusile Power Station project manager Aubrey Mzobe, project director Frans Sithole and stability manager Mphathiwezwe Nkabinde, as well as communication and community liaison company Vitrovian Trading and Projects (Pty) Ltd and its directors.

The information they collected, the man wrote, had to be submitted to Koko for his campaign to oust the officials.

Mokoena, the affidavit claims, was the main link to Koko and he was promised tenders at Tutuka and Kendal power stations. The writer said he was paid through a Capitec account, and through cashless services such as FNB’s eWallet and Absa’s CashSend for his spying services.

Shown the affidavit and asked for comment, Koko said: “My last response to you was that the affidavit was nonsense. Today, I repeat, the affidavit remains nonsensical.”

“It’s none of your business who I speak to on WhatsApp,” he added when told about his conversation with Mokoena.

The WhatsApp records appear to show that Mokoena was not only in contact with Koko, but also with an Eskom audit and forensics official. Mokoena sent Koko locations where they should meet and sometimes begged for attention when the former acting chief executive ignored him. One of the conversations reads:

Koko: Sir

Mokoena: First and foremost, I will to apologise for not coming and not updating you. Inconveniencing situation that needed my attention. I was hoping to making it tomorrow in the afternoon. If is a perfect timing from [your] side

Koko: 16:00

Mokoena: I’ll be on local radio on Monday regarding City Press [after City Press published a story about the affidavit]

Koko: Sure

Mokoena: We will nail this Abram and VV [Vitrovian]

Koko: Will hear tomorrow

On April 9, Mokoena sent Koko another WhatsApp message: “Renewable energy deal has been signed, how do we get opportunity in that regard?”

On May 1, Mokoena wrote and attached a photograph: “This is a mass that I am addressing towards the fight against Abram position.”

On May 10, Mokoena wrote: “U are now afraid. U scared me. Not at this point we need to fight until victory is certain. People are saying I am [your] spy because I believe in u, but you let me down now. I believe in (sic).”

On May 24, Koko appears angry with Mokoena and demands: “Where are my stuff. You do realise you have been promising [and] not delivering what you promise. Am I getting the promised document? Your behaviour is extremely suspicious. Just want you to know what I think about your behaviour.”

However, Mokoena told City Press the WhatsApp conversation was “fabricated” and he knew of a plan to implicate him because his phone was stolen by people “working with [Vitrovian] and Abram”.

“There’s a reward for R50 000, I know,” Mokoena said.

“They’re busy hacking my girlfriend’s phone and laptop, and we’re going to lay charges. They’ve declared war against me.”

Masango’s evidence to Ngubane implicated Koko and eventually led to him being suspended and charged for allegedly:

  • Misleading Parliament when he testified before the committee investigating state capture;
  • Breaching his fiduciary and statutory duties as acting group chief executive in relation to an almost R600 million payment to the Gupta-linked Trillian;
  • Failing to declare trips to Dubai paid for by a third party and associate of the Gupta family in December 2015 and January 2016; and
  • Distributing confidential Eskom documents in November 2015 to people associated with the Gupta family, using his personal email account.

Koko resigned from Eskom in February, before the disciplinary hearing was concluded, but emphasised that his resignation was not an admission of guilt.

When the spy affidavit was written, Masango was also suspended and underwent a disciplinary process on three charges relating to being involved in an improper property transaction, failing to ensure that proper risk and governance process was followed, and making a R95.1 million payment before a contract between Eskom and a service provider was concluded.

Masango was exonerated in a disciplinary hearing and has been reinstated in his position.

He, however, said he preferred not to comment.

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