Sikonathi Mantshantsha Deputy editor: Financial Mail
Matshela Koko: Failure to declare a conflict of interest. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA
Matshela Koko: Failure to declare a conflict of interest. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA

Sebetja Matsaung spent the first day of Eskom’s disciplinary hearing into Matshela Koko trying to convince three journalists that he doesn’t know the man he is to prosecute, on charges that may lead to a dismissal.

"I have just seen the man for the first time, and yes, he does not look much different from what you see on television," said Matsaung (34) on Monday.

Already, there were questions over whether Matsaung should be leading the prosecution, as Eskom’s suspended legal head Suzanne Daniels said he is "too junior, inexperienced and does not have the expertise" to handle the case.

But new facts have emerged which suggest Matsaung should not be involved in the hearing at all, as his relationship with Koko seems to go deeper than he has let on.

Finding a chairman for the hearing has also been a process apparently designed to favour Koko

Matsaung is a director of FBC & Associates, a company that in 2016 was awarded a contract to provide services to Eskom.

Asked about it, Matsaung says: "I bought shares and became a director in FBC long after the tender was awarded."

However, he first said "the tender is on hold for years", but then said "we agreed to a cancellation" with Eskom.

Matsaung did not say when he bought the shares. Company office records also don’t reveal when he was appointed a director. Pressed further, Matsaung says: "FBC and FBC JV is not doing business with Eskom and that is a fact."

But if he is a director of a company that does business with Eskom, this could be a potential conflict of interest.

Koko is being disciplined for his failure to declare a conflict of interest involving Impulse International, a company 35% owned by his stepdaughter.

Starting in July 2014, a division headed by Koko irregularly lavished contracts worth more than R1bn on Impulse. This was before the company was even registered as a supplier on the utility’s database. It had neither furnished Eskom with a tax-clearance certificate nor a BEE certificate. He is facing five charges which, if proved, may lead to his dismissal.

He is also facing five other charges, stemming from a whistleblower report. Those include accusations that when he acted as the utility’s CEO early this year, Koko gave illegal instructions to some senior managers and executives. When they failed to carry out those instructions, they were irregularly removed from their positions.

However, Eskom seems to have gone out of its way to ensure Koko will come out of the hearing smelling of roses. It appears the board was instrumental in ensuring Matsaung was chosen to lead the prosecution. He had been last on a list of four preferred advocates — but the legal department said he would be out of his depth if he was offered the job. While Matsaung will prosecute, finding a chairman for the hearing has also been a process apparently designed to favour Koko.

Eskom asked Koko to choose a judge for the hearing from a list of three experienced advocates. He rejected them all, on the basis that they were white men. From a new list — this time of black senior advocates — he selected Hamilton Maenetje, who agreed to chair the hearing. But at the last minute, Maenetje was informed the case would resume on Friday, when he was not available. In fact, the case was scheduled for Monday. Eskom is unable to explain this anomaly.

On Friday Eskom finally selected advocate Mzungulu Mthombeni to chair the case. He arrived at the hearing without a brief. He had not had access to the case files, or even to the charge sheet.

When pressed for an explanation, Eskom’s acting legal head Wawa Xaluva had various excuses for why Eskom failed to brief Mthombeni. It means the only people adequately prepared for the hearing are Koko and his lawyers.

When Mthombeni was asked by one of Koko’s lawyers in what capacity he would be chairing the disciplinary, he was forced to admit that he had not had time to familiarise himself with Eskom’s disciplinary code.

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