Eskom’s former head of generation Matshela Koko leaked confidential documents to Gupta lieutenant and business associate Salim Essa, in a bid to help Gupta-linked companies win tenders at the power utility.
This is according to claims made by Eskom board chairperson Jabu Mabuza on Monday, as he began his second day of testimony before the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture.
Mabuza told the commission — headed by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo — that in March 2015, the power utility was in the midst of intense load-shedding and four senior executives were suspended as part of the process. The four were Koko, then finance director Tsholofelo Molefe, chief executive Tshediso Matona, and former group executive for group capital Dan Marokane.
Koko was reinstated on July 20 2015 and on that same day, he started sending emails to a third party who was using the email address [email protected]. Mabuza said following a court order granting Eskom access, the source and the recipient of the emails were investigated. The emails were verified as having come from Koko’s email server and the person on the receiving end was found to be Essa.
In June last year, the utility alleged that its former head of legal Suzanne Daniels was a key facilitator in the Gupta family’s alleged capture of Eskom.
According to Eskom, Daniels acted in unison with other executives to facilitate irregular payments to Gupta-linked Trillian and global consultancy McKinsey. It further accused her of leaking sensitive information to the email address [email protected] that Eskom charges belonged to Essa.
Essa was at the time also the owner of Trillian, which raked in nearly R600-million from the power utility’s R1.6-billion McKinsey contract.
Mabuza testified that Koko began sending emails on his first day back “to demonstrate what business opportunities exist at Eskom” to Essa and to open doors for Gupta-linked companies to do business with the power utility. Mabuza added that Koko returned to the power utility before the investigation into his suspension could be completed.
In a series of emails presented by Mabuza as evidence, Koko sent Essa classified internal information. In one example, an email attachment Koko contained details of a programme approved by Eskom in 2015 to invest in top engineers.
This programme, Mabuza said, was aimed at addressing the challenge of load-shedding and a skills shortage at the power utility. Eskom wanted to train and retain engineers.
Koko is alleged to have also sent Essa the approved budget for the programme as well as treasury’s guidelines for the tender procurement process.
According to Mabuza, Koko was telling the third party that when bidding for tenders, these are the guidelines to follow to have a perfect bid.
“This whole scheming finally led us to McKinsey and Trillian,” Mabuza said.
In another email, Koko sent Essa a letter written by then board chairperson Ben Ngubane to former public enterprises minister Lynne Brown. In the letter, Ngubane wrote that Eskom had resolved to blacklist three newspapers which were publishing stories revealing damning allegations at Eskom — namely the Mail & Guardian, City Press and Sunday Times — by not placing advertisements in them or having any other “commercial relationship” with the publications.
The Zondo commission continues.