A fox cannot guard a chicken coop
EDITORIAL: This scandal should be the end for Koko
Surely even his most optimistic supporter must by now realise the game is up for Eskom’s acting CEO, Matshela Koko
Surely even his most optimistic supporter must by now realise the game is up for Eskom’s acting CEO, Matshela Koko. Every week, the train crash that is his tenure at the country’s power utility gets harder to watch, as one apparent lie is compounded by another. So far, the cost is R2.5bn, and that is probably not the final tally.
In recent weeks, the Sunday Times has reported how Eskom awarded tenders worth R1.8bn to Impulse International, a company in which Koko’s stepdaughter — the 26-year-old Koketso Choma — has been a shareholder and director since last April. These contracts were signed in the Eskom unit that Koko headed before he became acting CEO in December, after Brian Molefe’s resignation.
Koko’s response has been to feign amnesia until caught. Deny any knowledge of the people involved and the deals until you have to admit it.
It all began with Koko denying any knowledge of his stepdaughter’s business dealings, and what she does for a living — even though they live in the same house. Then he denied knowing the CEO of Impulse International, Pragasen Pather.
Except, it turns out that not only did he know Pather, but he also spoke to him on his cellphone no less than 52 times in an eight-month period, during which Impulse was raking in the contracts from Eskom.
Once trapped, Koko said when he found out about his stepdaughter’s involvement, he immediately "instructed" her to resign from Impulse.
Pather initially said: "I don’t know Koko. I only met him at industry conferences". Once caught out, he said: "Koko and I have a business relationship, which is between Eskom and Impulse International, which dates back to late 2015."
Initially, Koko’s stepdaughter also said she had not benefited from any payments from Impulse. Only, now it turns out that actually Impulse paid R16m to Ukwakhiwa Investments, a company of which she is the sole director.
In recent days, news reports have said that Impulse International deposited R1.7m into the coffers of a bank account thought to belong to the ANC just days before the party’s birthday celebrations in Soweto in January. And, as coincidence would have it, a day later Impulse scored another R14.2m contract from Eskom.
It’s important to note that these are only some of the freshest lies that have rolled off Koko’s tongue. Last year, on national television, he brazenly told Carte Blanche programme there was no prepayment amounting to R659m to the Gupta family for coal.
After being confronted with his own signature authorising the payment — a payment that national treasury said was irregular — Koko replied: "Let’s say I made a mistake."
If all this doesn’t suggest Koko isn’t the right man to lead Eskom on a full-time basis, nothing will. But not only should it disqualify him from being appointed as the permanent CEO, there should also be no place at the institution for somebody with such a fleeting acquaintance with the truth. At this point, it’s debatable whether Koko could even be trusted to run a spaza shop while the owner is out replenishing stock. A fox cannot guard a chicken coop.
It’s not as if Eskom, already under a corruption cloud, can afford this right now. And it hasn’t shown any inclination to deal decisively with problems: two years ago, law firm Dentons flagged possible fraud, theft and corruption, and said Eskom should investigate further. It didn’t.
It remains to be seen whether Eskom acts against Koko now. Having been caught out numerous times, he is surely now an unworkable liability — even to a compromised board.