Ramaphosa interfered in my Eskom dismissal, Matshela Koko tells Zondo commission

03 December 2020 - 19:03 By kgaugelo masweneng
Matshela Koko told the Zondo commission he was fired while driving home. File photo.
Matshela Koko told the Zondo commission he was fired while driving home. File photo.
Image: Esa Alexander

Former Eskom executive Matshela Koko told the state capture commission on Thursday that President Cyril Ramaphosa interfered in the utility's decision to dismiss him.

The interference took place between 2012 and 2014, when Ramaphosa was still deputy president and chair of Optimum coal mine, Koko said.

On 11 March 2015, the Eskom board suspended four executives. Koko was one of them. Three left, and only Koko returned.

Koko alleged that Ramaphosa's interference was motivated by an outstanding R1.4bn penalty fee due to Eskom by Optimum, which Koko was pushing to recover.

In his testimony, Koko stated that he was alerted by the then deputy director-general and deputy public enterprises minister of the impending dismissal by then-deputy president Ramaphosa and the new board.

Unconsciously or consciously, your investigators are following people and not the evidence. If they were, different people would be sitting where I am sitting,” he told the inquiry. “Optimum mine owed Eskom penalties of over a billion [rand], and they never explained [why the money was not paid],” Koko said.

He said he received a call one day while he was at the office, alerting him about the impending statement by Ramaphosa — a media statement announcing his dismissal.

He then left his office in the afternoon, but before he got home — driving between Centurion and Johannesburg — his dismissal and a new board had been announced.

“I’ve been criminalised, criticised and condemned. I have a son whom I feel for. I looked forward to today, I really want to assist you to get to the truth. In 2001, Eskom was the global energy company of the year, I was there,” he said.

Koko said that during his time at the utility, it recorded the highest performance improvement, cost-cutting and maintenance — and this in the “years now defined as state capture”.

“History will absolve us. SA is a different country, even black people are not accepting that a black engineer can produce the performance you see in front of you.

“The team that did the most maintenance was during his time. We reduced diesel spend. To burn diesel to keep lights on in this day and age is sheer incompetence. My team reduced [diesel spend] from R12.5bn to R200m in one year,” Koko added.

He said Ramaphosa’s conduct in the matter relating to his dismissal was unlawful.