Matshela Koko at the parliamentary hearing into Eskom.Picture: Bheki Radebe/African News Agency (ANA)
JOHANNESBURG - Eskom executive Matshela Koko is fighting off moves to remove him from his position and on Friday scored an early victory when the Labour Court issued an interim order, restraining Eskom from unlawfully terminating his contract of employment.

The interim order gives the embattled Koko a reprieve until the matter is heard in the Labour Court on February 6.

Eskom spokesperson Khulu Phasiwe said on Friday: “Mr Koko will remain an employee of Eskom until the court deals with the matter.”

Rattled by an ultimatum on Thursday from interim group chief executive Phakamani Hadebe that he should resign on Friday morning “or his employment with Eskom shall be terminated with immediate effect", Koko launched the Labour Court bid which has bought him some time at the troubled power utility.

Hadebe’s ultimatum followed an unequivocal directive from the Presidency for Eskom to remove him immediately. Koko on Friday launched an urgent application interdicting Eskom from firing him. The Presidency last week directed Eskom to remove all personnel implicated in corruption.

In the statement, the Presidency said: “The board is directed to immediately remove all Eskom executives who are facing allegations of serious corruption and other acts of impropriety, including Mr Matshela Koko and Mr Anoj Singh.” Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba urged Singh and Koko to resign in the interest of the country.

The government’s instructions set the scene for a legal showdown with Koko. While Singh resigned last week, Koko has resisted pressure to leave Eskom. Acting head of group capital Prish Govender also resigned with immediate effect last week.

“I have been working for Eskom for 23 years. My association with Eskom is over 31 years. Eskom took me to high school, took me to university. I have only worked for Eskom. My blood is Eskom blue,” he told the public enterprises portfolio committee that is investigating allegations of corruption, governance failures and mismanagement at Eskom.

In an affidavit supporting the Labour Court application, Koko said: “Institutions of state have embarked on a frenzied campaign against all and sundry that can be said to have been associated with alleged ‘state capture’ by the now notorious Gupta family (with whom I have no ties whatsoever).”

Koko was also critical of the Parliamentary hearings, saying witnesses had been treated badly. He said the frenzied campaign against those associated with state capture had resulted in the trampling on human rights “as is evident also from the government statement of Sunday, January 21, 2018.

“It is also exemplified by the proceedings of the portfolio committee in Parliament insofar as persons who are believed to have been involved as participants or facilitated ‘state capture’ are treated in the most despicable manner, being defamed and insulted, and subjected to questioning, taking turns, until the late hours of the night.”

Koko, through a letter from his lawyers to Eskom, last week described the government’s directive for Eskom employees to be removed as unlawful and shocking.

Eskom earlier this month reinstated Koko - a former interim group chief executive - to his old position of group executive for generation after an Eskom disciplinary process found him not guilty of misconduct. This related to, among others, an alleged failure to declare a conflict of interest.