Matshela Koko: ‘I am a victim’

Former Eskom chief executive Matshela Koko took to radio on Monday to once again deny allegations he used his position to aid the controversial Gupta family in capturing the embattled power utility.

During an interview on Radio 702 with Eusebius McKaiser, Koko said he would never be caught for committing any impropriety during his time at the helm of Eskom. Koko added that he was “a victim”, saying his former colleagues had turned on him in an effort to deflect allegations made against them.

READ MORE: Gupta looters leave SA in the dark

Allegations of corruption at Eskom have been the subject of a parliamentary inquiry, a treasury investigation and are currently being examined before the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture. Over the last two weeks, Koko has been implicated in alleged corruption by a number of Zondo commission witnesses, including Eskom board chairperson Jabu Mabuza.

READ MORE: Zondo commission to hear how the Guptas nabbed their Optimum coal mine

“Those who got involved in impropriety and thieving ended up in Parliament and said Mr Koko stole … they did so to cover themselves up,” Koko said.

“They knew what they were doing. So no I don’t trust the people that I worked with.”

Koko also said he had attempted to enforce controls to prevent impropriety, saying he identified irregularities at the Medupi and Kusile power stations which he noted were Eskom’s primary loss makers.

“I dealt with it. I moved the people around. I was suspended for that. I was suspended for dealing with corruption,” he said.

The interview dealt extensively with allegations levelled by Mabuza at the Zondo commission, where he revealed details of the nearly a dozen emails sent to a third party who was using the email address [email protected] The address is widely deemed to have been used by Gupta lieutenant Salim Essa.

Mabuza alleged that Koko began leaking confidential documents to the email address on his first day back from suspension in July 2015 “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.

READ MORE: Koko leaked emails to ‘demonstrate his capabilities to the captors’ — Mabuza

Koko has previously denied allegations he disseminated the internal Eskom documents to a third party. In response to treasury’s investigation into the matter, he said the email address was given to him by Eskom’s former head of legal Suzanne Daniels on the basis that he had to use it to provide information on Eskom’s operations to then board chairperson Ben Ngubane.

According to Mabuza, Eskom has found emails on its server containing communications between Koko, Daniels and members of the Eskom board with third parties “including persons reasonably believed to be associates of the Gupta family such as Mr Salim Essa and Mr Nazeem Howa [former chief executive of the Gupta family’s Oakbay Investments]”.

The emails allegedly deal with Eskom’s transactions with Tegeta and the power utility’s public position on these transactions from at least July 2015 to August 2016.

During the interview on Monday, Koko reiterated this position. “I have never communicated with Salim Essa on any of his emails. I have never …“I never talked to Salim Essa. I talked to the chairman of Eskom,” he said.

“I agree with the principle which says critical Eskom information should not be sent to a third party outside Eskom … I don’t know how it ended up there. The information that I sent to Suzanne Daniels and the chairman ended up with a third party.”

Koko also denied that Eskom’s current financial and operational woes are a result of maladministration at the entity under his leadership.

He conceded that Eskom is in “big big trouble”, but added: “Since 2002 Eskom has been declining. It did not start declining in 2015 and 2016.”

Eskom experienced its best operational performance between 2015 and 2017, Koko said. “Those were my years,” he added.

In the most recent sign of Eskom’s operational troubles, the power utility announced that there is a high risk of rotational load shedding on Monday, caused by a shortage of capacity due to the loss of generating units at our power stations.

Meanwhile further allegations of corruption emerged against Koko in a damning Sunday Times newspaper report.

According to the report, Koko allegedly guaranteed a multinational engineering company Asea Brown Boveri R6.5-billion in future contracts if it subcontracted work on the Kusile power station to a company part-owned by his stepdaughter.

Koko denied the allegations in response to questions put to him by the Sunday Times. He reportedly said the allegations stemmed from a labour court dispute between him and Eskom.

“Eskom was under pressure to put a face to corruption … They told the court it was me, but when the court said where’s the evidence, they withdrew the claim,” he told the newspaper.

Sarah Smit
Sarah Smit
Sarah Smit is a general news reporter at the Mail & Guardian. She covers topics relating to labour, corruption and the law.

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