There are two versions of how the suspensions of four executives happened at Eskom in 2015. The first version is corroborated by Nick Linnell, known as Dudu Myeni’s fixer. Linnell alleges a meeting took place in Durban with former president Jacob Zuma, Myeni, and former Eskom chairperson Zola Tsotsi. A document was discussed which listed how Eskom was performing poorly, especially with loadshedding and needed a change of guard. Tsotsi and Linnell state it was agreed then group CEO Tshediso Matona would be suspended with three executives – the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Tsholofelo Molefe, group capital head Dan Marokane and Koko, who was head of technology. The suspensions were apparently orchestrated by Zuma to place Gupta aligned associates in the power utility to award lucrative tenders to the influential family – Bernice Maune.
By Bernice Maune
Eskom’s former group CEO Matshela Koko is adamant that he found out through then Eskom chairperson Zola Tsotsi in a phonecall that he would be suspended.
His testimony at the Zondo commission contradicts that of Tsotsi, who said Koko was well aware ahead of time and was informed by Gupta lieutenant Salim Essa of how the suspensions would take place. Suzanne Daniels, former group secretary, also told Judge Ray Zondo that she was called to a meeting in Melrose Arch by Koko to meet Essa. At that meeting, she was advised suspensions would take place and Koko would later come back to facilitate the transition of the new board.
According to Daniels, Koko was explicit in his orchestrated comeback and was very comfortable around Essa, even sipping on a drink as Essa offered her a prime position on their board. Another former Eskom employee, Tsholofelo Molefe who was a manager in the financial department, said Koko also invited her to meet Essa at Melrose Arch. Koko would later ask for her CV to be considered for the CFO position.
Dennis Masango, the head of the Kusile power station, also claimed Koko invited him to meet Essa with the view of being appointed the group chief executive. The suspensions went ahead with Anoj Singh as Eskom CFO and Brian Molefe as CEO. Koko was indeed reappointed four months later as CEO, getting a promotion from group head of technology. However, his appointment would be mired in controversy as he was accused of giving his daughter’s company a R1bn tender, claims he has vehemently denied at the Zondo commission.
Koko has since received a summons from Eskom and the Special Investigating Unit to account for R3,8bn. Essa and the three Gupta brothers have also been summonsed to account for the Gupta takeover of Optimum Coal Holdings in 2015.
About his suspension, Koko said he was told of his suspension by Matona over a long phonecall. He then heard of the others on 11 March 2015. He alleged he was sent threatening messages by former Eskom CEO Tshediso Matona.
“Tsotsi’s submission made me want to dig more. Matona showed me these messages and I asked him, he looked and he never found them. I don’t want to sit here and argue there was or wasn’t messages. The important part for me is answered on how I knew,” said Koko.
Of the meeting where it was decided by Myeni, Zuma and Nick Linnell he should be suspended and brought back, Koko said he was upset by the meeting. He labelled the discussions had in the meeting as a conspiracy theory.
“It’s a conspiracy theory, he says there is sabotage at Eskom. According to them Eskom is burning R1bn of diesel and someone is benefitting. There were stories of medical doctors getting contracts. Jabu (Maswanganyi) was taking a conspiracy document to force sabotage… It was a big sell that’s why Tsotsi pushed me into generation,” said Koko.
About the suspensions of the other three executives, Koko said he was not on good terms with Tsotsi as he had suspended senior commercial general manager Malesela Sekhasimbe. Tsotsi was allegedly upset over a R69m contract he wanted paid to Sumitomo Corporation Africa for the supply of transformers.
This fall-out led Koko to be on strained terms with Tsotsi, which is what he believed was used against him in suspending him.
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Watch Koko Matshela’s testimony at the Zondo Commission below.