ON THE RECORD: Eskom’s R50k a day lawyer flies off the handle, calls journo: “You P*@$”

JOHANNESBURG — Disgraced lawyer Sebetja Matsaung, who let rip at Financial Mail and Business Day journalist Sikonathi Mantshantsha on Friday evening, should be left feeling more than red-faced this week. Matsaung was hired by Eskom to be evidence leader at the disciplinary hearing of acting CEO Matshela Koko. (Matsaung was also charging Eskom a ridiculous R50 000 per day, according to the Sunday Times; a fee that one analyst called “daylight robbery”.) But after Mantshantsha reported in Business Day last week Friday that Matsaung owned shares in a company that Eskom planned to do business with (and that Koko was expected to sign off on the deal), it all started to go pear-shaped for the lawyer. Just after day three’s proceedings of Koko’s disciplinary hearing adjourned on Friday evening, EE Publisher’s Chris Yelland was interviewing Matsaung. The Eskom evidence leader, in turn, became increasingly aggressive towards Mantshantsha (who was standing alongside Yelland). Matsaung then threatened the Financial Mail journalist with physical violence and hurled a number of expletives at him, all of which were recorded by several journalists. It’s a must-listen audio snippet and Yelland has given us permission to publish the full transcript here. Thankfully, Eskom acted quickly and on Saturday announced that it had sacked Matsaung after his temper tantrum. Eskom, though, needs to answer why and how it hired Matsaung in the first place… – Gareth van Zyl

I ask you, what would your comments be to a person who said that this inquiry is cooked?

I don’t know what pot it was cooked in and I don’t know the ingredients that were put into this pot for the inquiry to be cooked. But from where I’m standing, I don’t see anything that is cooked and I don’t have knowledge of such. Do you understand? I wouldn’t associate myself with cooked proceedings. They’ve asked me before, whether I know Mr Koko. I’ve said that I’ve seen him on TV and I can’t wait to meet him on Monday in person because he’s a celebrity, don’t you think?


Maybe.

Yes, it is. He’s in the public space. Every day when we wake up you see a picture of him, so I was eager to meet him on Monday. So, whether the proceedings are cooked or not – I don’t know. Go and ask that to Eskom. I’m bound by the rules of the Law Society and I’ve got an ethical obligation to ensure that these proceedings run in the interest of justice. Also, to protect the rights of an accused person in these proceedings, he still has rights. There is something called ‘the presumption of innocence until proven guilty,’ and perhaps you should start writing about that.

Sebetja Matsaung
Sebetja Matsaung, pictured far right, losing his cool. (Source: @karynmaughan on Twitter)

Some would say that the witnesses that you’ve called have done more good for the defense than the prosecution.

Well, it’s just unfortunate my friend. The witnesses I have called are witnesses that are part of the witness list. Now, [regarding] the balance of the witnesses are not showing up, those are Eskom employees that are not within my control. I’m not even allowed to contact them and ask them to come to the proceedings. If they are not compliant what do I do?

What reasons are being given for their non-appearance at this disciplinary hearing?

There’s no reason. Mr … [another witness] said that first he wants to go and consult his lawyers. I spoke to his lawyer. He asked if he could come and make a private representation. I didn’t object, the opposition didn’t object, and the chairperson didn’t seem to have a problem with it. He ended up saying that he’s not coming. He’ll come on Monday and I don’t know why.

But there was a group of witnesses and your first line up of witnesses didn’t arrive on the first day.

My first line up was Annemarie and them. They indicated that they had commitments that were not properly communicated but eventually they came, and she led evidence. Daphne was here. The rest of the witnesses you saw. My learned colleague threw his toys out of the cot. What was I supposed to do? I didn’t throw my toys out of the cot, you saw me. I was a gentleman. I was collegial, and I allowed the process to flow. Had I done what he had done had the process run smoothly as it did yesterday… No, then that friend of yours [Business Day and Financial Mail journalist Sikonathi Mantshantsha] says to the media that I was sleeping during the proceedings. At any time, did you see my eyes closed?

No.

Then you understand why we say that you sensationalise things and say things out of context. I am a victim. I know Sikonathi has been placed here to discredit me, to investigate me, my past life, and the things that I’ve done so, that he can cast aspersions on my persona. I don’t have a problem with that. That’s how the media knows how to play.

Sebetja Matsaung. (Source: Facebook)

Will Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr be testifying?

Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr has to testify but they were not available. I would imagine that communication will be sent to them that they avail witnesses.

Are they on your witness list?

They are on my witness list.

Then why have they not made themselves available?

They’re a big law firm ‘bra,’ they don’t only attend to Eskom. They’ve got multitudes and multitudes of clientele that they must service, do you understand? And you must understand that there were specific individuals that were assigned to deal with the investigation. If those individuals are not available as at the juncture that they are required I have to wait for their availability. So, it will be communicated to me as to as and when they will become available. Then they will come and testify only in relation to the aspect that leads to what they term as CDH recommendations and findings. Understand?

Understand.

Mr Koko doesn’t seem to be very happy about what happened today. He says that they are delaying these proceedings deliberately saying, there is no —

Do you think it’s deliberate? Do you think I’m delaying it deliberately because at the end of the day it’s an indictment on me as a case presenter? Do you think I’m delaying the proceedings deliberately? My witnesses are not showing up. I can’t force them to be here. Only Eskom can order the witnesses to come here.

Does Eskom staff refuse to work on a weekend?

Bru, I don’t work for Eskom, but I can tell you now is that the witnesses, as and when I’ve requested witnesses, those that came, came. Those that didn’t, didn’t come and there’s really not that much that I can do. My hands are tied behind my back.

Do you think Eskom wants this case to proceed or do they want it to be thrown out?

Eskom wants the case to proceed so that it can be finalised so that we can put all of this behind our backs and life goes on. Eskom needs to rebuild its confidence in society and this is a pinnacle point in doing so. But my problem is with the reporting that is happening here. It doesn’t make that suggestion. You are not even affording the utility the opportunity to do so.

I am.

Yes, but Sikonathi is not. He’s been inaccurately reporting.

But I am.

I know that you are. He’s telling society that I am sleeping in the proceedings when you were there, and you were watching me. There was not one moment that I blinked an eye. Do you understand what I’m saying?

[Addresses Sikonathi] Are you intimidating me boss? I am not talking to you – I am talking about you. Are you intimidating me? I can take off my jacket now, boss, and we can go outside. Don’t intimidate me. I’m not your friend.

[Sikonathi]: Yeah, I am recording you hey.  

I don’t care. Don’t intimidate me. You were simulating that you will beat me up. You are here so, what? So, what if you’re here? So, what if you are here – I am not talking to you.

Eskom corruption. More magic available at jerm.co.za.

[Sikonathi]: If you…

Boss, I am not talking to you. I am not talking to you. Don’t intimidate me. Your poes. Do you want to take it outside? Now, come.

[Other journalists] Guys, guys…

I’m not talking to you. Who the fuck do you think you are? You see me sweet and smiling but you think I’m a naai.

Guys, let’s behave appropriately.

I will take it out now, boss, the African way. You come and smell like a little faggot. I will take it out now. I don’t need the law, chief. I will sort this out man-to-man. I will take it out now. I’m not talking to you. I’m talking to this gentleman and it’s got nothing to do with you. Now, stay out of it. Stay out of it because I’ve told you I don’t want to talk to you. You are not my friend. You don’t even qualify to be a journalist. You are a disgrace to the industry. I’m telling you now, and that’s my opinion.

[Sikonathi]: That’s good to know.

You are a disgrace because you are a sensational, pathological liar – that’s what you are but let me tell you, my friend, continue. Be my guest.

[Sikonathi]: I’m your friend now?