Former Eskom contracts manager France Hlakudi says he never took bribes from Kusile contractor Tubular Construction Projects (TCP), or paid bribes to ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe’s daughter Nombasa Mawela or others fingered by suspended Eskom interim CEO Matshela Koko.
In a statement issued by his attorney, Hlakudi for the first time gives detailed explanations of the income and expenditure of his closed corporation Hlakudi Translation and Interpretation, which is at the centre of the allegations.
He also denies allegations made by his former security guard, Ntokozo Dubazana, in an affidavit that he had bags of cash totalling millions of rands delivered to top Eskom executives. He alleges that he earlier fired Dubazana for stealing from him.
Moneyweb earlier reported that Tubular allegedly paid R20 million in bribes to Hlakudi Tanslation and Interpretation, that amounts totalling R60 million flowed through the account since 2015 and that about R38 million of that was withdrawn in cash.
During his recent disciplinary hearing, Koko testified about this and made further allegations that Hlakudi paid bribes to Mawela and his former Eskom colleague Mildred Nyoka.
One of the charges against Koko related to his instruction on February 1 to have Hlakudi and another person summarily removed from Eskom’s Kusile project, without following protocol. Koko admitted to giving the instruction, but said it was within his authority as interim group chief executive and was based on the serious allegations of bribery and contract manipulation.
Hlakudi was expected to testify at the hearing, but failed to do so after obtaining legal advice and resigning from Eskom. The employer closed the case without leading any evidence on this charge, which has seriously weakened its case against Koko.
In a statement issued by his attorney, Hlakudi now confirms that he received a R400 000 payment from then Tubular employee Patrice Tiberi. He said the payment was unsolicited and not a bribe. It was used towards community development projects, which were part of Tubular’s Corporate Social Investment (CSI) obligations in terms of its contract with Eskom, he states.
According to Hlakudi, Tubular paid Hlakudi Translation and Interpretation almost R20 million in total for the CSI projects, which he names, as well as the translation of “various transactional documents, written in French and Portuguese, for use abroad”.
Moneyweb asked Hlakudi, through his attorney, why his business was being used for Tubular’s CSI projects, to which he responded as follows:
“The CSI projects were targeted towards deep rural areas in the Sekhukhune region. Whilst TCP (Tubular) was keen to contribute to the development of that area, it did not have capacity to do so. HTI (Hlakudi’s business) had the capacity to execute the projects. It rendered the necessary services and was paid therefor.”
He explained the large cash withdrawals by saying that since the projects were implemented in rural areas, hardware suppliers and local labour required cash payments.
Hlakudi further stated that his membership in the closed corporation “was disclosed regularly by way of Eskom’s Declaration of Interest forms”.
Hlakudi questions Koko’s motive in having him removed from Kusile. He states that Koko wanted him transferred to a position that he was not suited to and he never instituted an investigation or disciplinary procedures against Hlakudi as one would have expected him to do.
The almost R1 million payments made by Hlakudi Translation and Interpretation to Mantashe’s daughter were in fact for broiler chickens, Hlakudi states. He says he is involved in chicken farming and has been in a business relationship with Mawela in relation to this for several years.
The payments to former Eskom colleague Mildred Nyoka, who was his junior in contract management at Kusile, was in fact a loan to pay for her post-graduate studies and to renovate her property in preparation for its sale, Hlakudi states.
He told Moneyweb the loan was granted at an interest rate of prime minus 1%.
Hlakudi accuses Koko of trying to intimidate him using the Telegram app, “which enabled Mr Koko to set a time period of a few seconds, after the lapse of which the messages self-destructed”.
According to Hlakudi, Koko’s accusations are aimed at diverting attention from his own misconduct and he plans to institute civil and criminal proceedings against Koko.
Koko’s disciplinary hearing has concluded save for closing arguments. These will most probably be concluded by exchange of papers. It is not clear when the chairman will make his ruling or whether it will be made public.