/ 29 March 2021

Ramaphosa will be questioned on Eskom, Zondo assures Koko

Former Eskom Ceo Matshela Koko Testifies At The State Capture Commission In South Africa
Former Eskom CEO, Matshela Koko. (Photo by Papi Morake/Gallo Images via Getty Images)

Matshela Koko on Monday sought and found assurance from the Zondo commission that President Cyril Ramaphosa would be asked to answer to the allegation that he bypassed the Eskom board to have him fired as chief executive of the power utility.

Koko prefaced another day of being grilled about Eskom’s unlawful dealings with McKinsey, by asking if Ramaphosa had been served with a rule 3.3 notice on his earlier testimony about his removal from Eskom.

“I just want to understand if Mr Ramaphosa has been served with a rule 3.3 notice, like all of us have been served, because I really want to know why did Mr Ramaphosa interfere in the affairs of Eskom by instructing the board of Eskom, that was yet to meet to dismiss me — an instruction that the labour court found to be unlawful,” he said.

Koko suggested that his forced departure in 2018 led to the resumption of load-shedding, with devastating consequences for the country.

“Between 2018 and 2020, R266-billion was lost as a result of load-shedding that occurred after I left, so I really want to know, and if the public are not interested in knowing, I really want to know,” he said.

“I will not be able to rest peacefully until I know why did the deputy president of the republic interfere in the events of Eskom to instruct the board that was yet to meet to dismiss me.”

Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo assured Koko that Ramaphosa would be asked about the matter when he appears before the commission in late April.

“I can’t tell you for sure whether your statement is implicating, or to the effect that the current president issued an instruction, whether it was served,” he said.

“But I can assure you that I too am interested in what the president has to say about your evidence in that regard and that he certainly should be questioned on that; the legal team is preparing on such matters.”

Evidence leader Pule Seleka said Ramaphosa had been given a copy of Koko’s testimony, as well as that of Brian Molefe, who preceded him in the post.

He said the commission had taken that , rather than serving a rule 3.3 notice, because Koko’s averments came in his oral testimony and not in his affidavit to the commission.

“Part of the transcript of Mr Koko was given to the president when we provided him with the equivalent of a rule 3.3, which is a request for information and we gave him documentation from Mr Molefe’s testimony and from Mr Koko.

“But I think in the case of Mr Koko that averment was made orally and not in the affidavit, as I recall — that he instructed somebody to have you suspended.”

Koko claimed that both former deputy public enterprises minister Ben Martins, who held the post until February 2018, and the acting director general of the department at the time, Makgola Makololo, informed him that Ramaphosa had ordered his axing.

In mid-January, Molefe prefaced his testimony to the commission with a lengthy statement in which he sought to cast Ramaphosa as the true culprit in the state capture scandal.

He claimed that Ramaphosa, as deputy president and head of the Eskom war room assembled to resolve the entity’s woes, had held the power utility and the country to ransom to protect the interests of Glencore, because of his history as a business partner of the multinational commodity-trading and mining company. 

Molefe claimed that after Glencore bought the Optimum Coal Mine, it leaned on Ramaphosa to use his political clout to allow it to renegotiate coal-supply prices and wave penalties at a cost of R8-billion to the power utility.

Ramaphosa is due to testify before the commission on 22, 23, 28 and 29 April.

Molefe resigned from Eskom in late 2017 in the wake of then public protector Thuli Madonsela’s report, State of Capture, in which she called for the commission of inquiry to be established to further probe her findings of malfeasance at state-owned companies.

Koko succeeded him, but resigned in February 2018 after he was given an ultimatum to quit or be fired for, inter alia, leaking confidential documents to associates of the Gupta family.

Testifying before the commission earlier this month, Koko denied that he knowingly forwarded documents to Salim Essa.

Over many days of testimony before the commission, Koko has consistently denied any wrongdoing and, on Monday, said it was not his fault if McKinsey began working for Eskom before a formal contract was signed.

Koko said there were circumstances under which this was allowed, provided express written permission had been given. However, in terms of the relevant Eskom process, the permission would not have come from him, as head of procurement at the time; hence, he could not assist Seleka in this regard.