Former Eskom CEO says he was fired to make way for Brian Molefe
Zondo inquiry hears that members of the board urged Tshediso Matona to settle, saying retaining his position as CEO was out of question
Five years after leaving Eskom, Tshediso Matona is still in the dark about the precise reason he was ousted after serving as its CEO for only five months.
Matona appeared at the state capture inquiry on Monday to give testimony about his controversial exit from Eskom.
He was appointed as CEO on October 1 2014 and suspended on March 11 2015. He was told why he was suspended.
At the time of his suspension he confronted the Eskom board, led by then chair Zola Tsotsi.
Matona was told that he was suspended because Eskom had resolved to appoint an inquiry into the problems facing the power utility at the time which should not be obstructed by Eskom’s management.
Matona turned to the labour court to set aside the suspension.
Though the labour court ruled in his favour, saying his suspension was procedurally unfair, it referred the matter to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) for arbitration.
That process was postponed after Tsotsi, who was representing Eskom at the hearing, said he needed to consult with then public enterprises minister Lynne Brown.
But before the CCMA process could reconvene, Eskom board members Tsotsi and Venete Klein, as well as businessman Romeo Khumalo started talks with Matona to reach a settlement.
Matona told the Zondo inquiry on Monday that at the second meeting with the Eskom board he was told that his return as CEO was out of question.
He said he sought a meeting with then president Jacob Zuma, seeking political intervention to the impasse but the meeting did not happen.
Matona and Eskom agreed on a settlement in May which saw him replaced by Brian Molefe, who had since taken over as acting CEO.
Matona told the inquiry he now believed that he was pushed out to “make way” for Molefe, whose controversial relationship with the Gupta family has already emerged at the hearings.
A month after Matona left Eskom, he got a call confirming Zuma wanted to see him.
Zuma suddenly showed remorse, said Matona.
“What he did say was that I got caught up in a spaghetti — those were his exact words,” said Matona, adding that he did not understand what Zuma meant.
“He then said to me he would like me to come back to public service. I think he wanted to establish where my headspace was. I left the meeting, we never had the opportunity to speak again.”
Asked if he believed Zuma's “remorse” may have indicated that he was involved in his departure from Eskom, Matona said: “I can confirm the remorse but cannot say if the remorse is a reflection that he may have had a hand in my suspension.”
Three months after his meeting with Zuma, Matona was appointed as head of secretariat for the National Planning Commission in the presidency, where he still works.
The commission is set to hear evidence from Tsotsi.
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