While the disciplinary hearing of Eskom’s suspended group chief executive (GCE) Matshela Koko has been overshadowed by the conduct of its former evidence leader, there are persistent questions about why Koko summarily removed two officials and a mysterious company from Kusile.
The first four charges against Koko relate to the much-publicised award of large tenders to Impulse International, a company of which his step daughter Koketso Choma was a director and large shareholder.
Charge five is however an allegation that he undermined members of his executive team after his appointment as GCE in December last year.
The charge is based on an anonymous letter sent to the Eskom board containing this and several other grievances against Koko.
Koko has pleaded not guilty on this charge.
According to the charge sheet Koko issued an instruction around February 1 to Frans Sithole, then project director at Kusile, to remove Gopal Kambi, a project manager for the consultants Arup Tata, the company GTC and Eskom senior manager France Hlakudi from Kusile.
Hlakudi at the time managed procurement at Medupi and Kusile.
Sithole reported to the head of Group Capital Abram Masango and the argument is that Koko should have addressed Masango, instead of giving a direct instruction to Sithole, Nkonki investigator Annemarie Krugel testified.
When Sithole got the instruction from Koko via a colleague, he went to see his boss, Masango, about the matter. They went to see Koko together, but Koko failed to give a proper reason why he wanted Kambi, Hlakudi and GTC gone from Kusile.
Koko gave very little information in the plea he submitted about the basis for his professed innocence.
Eskom instructed law firm Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr (CDH) to investigate the complaints against Koko. CDH in turn appointed Nkonki Incorporated to determine the facts.
On Friday, Krugel testified about the charges stemming from the anonymous letter, referred to as “the whistleblower’s report”.
She testified that Nkonki interviewed several role players about the matter, including Koko, Sithole and Masango.
Despite Nkonki’s request to that effect, an interview with Hlakudi never materialised, she said. No reasons were given.
She further stated that Nkonki was never able to identify the company GTC.
She said during an interview with Koko, he indicated that he got information that led to his instruction and he believes he acted within his authority as interim GCE.
She said the information he obtained was confidential. He shared it with her, but she did not include it in Nkonki’s report to CDH that was later submitted to Eskom.
It is for Koko to testify about the confidential matter, she said.
Hlakudi was on Eskom’s previous evidence leader Sebetja Matsaung’s list of possible witnesses.
On Friday Hlakudi was expected to testify, but failed to arrive at the hearing. Matsaung said Hlakudi was with his lawyer and requested that his lawyer be present when he testifies. Despite the parties being open to this, he did not arrive later that evening as expected and indicated he would only be available on Monday.
On Monday, Eskom however had a new evidence leader in Advocate Cassim Moosa and no evidence was led. Hlakudi was not present at the hearing.
Advocate Frans Barrie for Koko however argued that there was no prima facie case against his client. He said Koko acted within his delegated authority when he gave the instruction, as he had powers to act in all respects to manage Eskom’s business.
He said Hlakudi was unwilling to consult with Matsaung and requested that his attorney be present. He asked why Hlakudi didn’t pitch on Friday and why it was necessary for Hlakudi, a witness, to consult an attorney.
He referred to Krugel’s evidence about Koko’s confidential reason for the removal of Hlakudi and Kambi and said she apparently accepted it.
Barrie confirmed that Koko would testify about this confidential reason. In fact, he is eager to do so, as soon as he is offered an opportunity to do so, Barrie said.
Despite an objection from Barrie, the hearing was postponed until November 23 to give Moosa a chance to get up to speed with the details of the case.
He indicated that he might call another four or five witnesses and might recall Krugel. Koko will have to wait until Moosa has presented all his witnesses before he would be allowed to take the stand.
In the mean time Koko will remain on suspension with full benefit.