Matshela Koko. Picture: ESA ALEXANDER
Matshela Koko. Picture: ESA ALEXANDER

The Labour Court sitting in Johannesburg has ordered power utility Eskom to pay former head of generation Matshela Koko’s legal fees.

On January 26 Koko filed for an urgent interdict after Eskom’s new board gave him an ultimatum to resign within 24 hours or be fired. Koko said he believed he still had a "crucial role" to play at Eskom.

"It is hereby declared that the ultimatum issued by Mr Phakamani Hadebe requiring the applicant to resign by Friday January 26 2018‚ failing which his employment shall terminate by 10am‚ is unlawful. The respondent [is] to pay costs which include costs of January 26 2018 and the employment of two counsel‚" said Labour Court judge Graham Moshoana on Thursday.

Koko‚ 49‚ said he wanted to prove to Eskom that they could not do as they pleased and had to follow correct labour practices when firing employees for misconduct.

This follows the state-owned entity’s attempt to fire Koko last month‚ based on a directive from newly elected President Cyril Ramaphosa without first giving him an opportunity to state his case. Moshoana said this move was unlawful.

"The actions of the respondent on January 25 2018 of intending to terminate the employment of the applicant in breach of his employment contract are unlawful and ought to be declared as such‚" Moshoana said.

Kok,o however, resigned last week on the day of his new disciplinary hearing‚ citing strain on his family. He said it was not an admission of guilt.

Contacted for comment‚ Koko said: "Three of my [former] employees at Eskom were dismissed without a hearing. They were called in and they were told‚ ‘tomorrow you resign and you go because we have an instruction from government that says you must go’. That is unmitigated misuse of power by democratically elected officials and I went to the labour court to stop the unmitigated abuse of power by public officials."

He said he was not bothered if Eskom was under the impression that there was still a prima facie case to which he should respond. The power utility had no right to direct him to resign or dismiss him without following proper labour law.

An internal disciplinary hearing had earlier cleared Koko of charges relating to contracts worth about R1bn awarded to a company linked to his stepdaughter, Koketso Choma.

He also said thousands of employees should make use of democracy to fight unfair dismissals whether they were parastatal employees or not.

Eskom said it was aware of Thursday’s judgment and would wait for Koko to send them an invoice.

"The issue of costs will be determined once Mr Koko sends his costs for taxation in the ordinary course. Any such costs which are due by Eskom could be offset against the costs order granted in favour of Eskom in the urgent interdict Eskom was successful in against Mr Koko on February 4 2018 in the high court‚" Eskom said.

Koko’s lawyer Asger Gani was unavailable for comment on Thursday night.