Guiding lights Koko and Molefe are struck off NPA roll

Former Eskom acting CEO Matshela Koko. Picture: Bheki Radebe Independent Newspapers

Former Eskom acting CEO Matshela Koko. Picture: Bheki Radebe Independent Newspapers

Published Jun 10, 2024


Eskom’s former CEOs Matshela Koko and Brian Molefe on Friday could breathe more easily again after the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) struck the tender fraud case against them off the roll. Is this a temporary reprieve or do the orange overalls still await them?

Koko is on record that he does not have an orange overall that fits his size. Ever since he was under the corruption spotlight, Koko has been a public servant generously contributing his vast knowledge on matters energy more generally and zooming in on Eskom specifically.

While the country has been in the dark for the past six years, these energy experts were stuck in the no man’s land of damaged reputation awaiting justice. As the saying goes, justice delayed is justice denied. This is justice that Koko had to go back to court to seek at great personal cost even though the judgment awarded costs in his favour.

I pointed out at the height of load shedding that while Koko said he would never ever go back to Eskom, Koko should be forced to go back to fix the broken power utility, but if he was found guilty by the court then he should be locked up.

Last week, after having taken the NPA back to court to act on the court decision, Koko won relief with costs to have his case struck off the roll.

At the height of state capture, Swiss company ABB, it is alleged, was irregularly awarded a control and instrumentation contract at Eskom’s Kusile power station in 2015 after allegedly colluding with Eskom officials in exchange for kickbacks.

For the six years after Koko left Eskom, he became a public educator on energy systems. He was consistent throughout with the message of science. He did so without any bitterness where science mattered. He was equally vocal on the rare occasion that he spoke of the injustice that visited him.

Shortly after Koko’s case was heard and adjudicated, a case that had among the accused Molefe, accused number 4 was also adjudicated and their justices had Molefe removed from the list of the accused.

On Saturday, Koko posted on his social media masterclass on energy on social media platform X a message that shed light on former Eskom CEO André de Ruyter’s competence in energy systems posted again

“MK: South Africans don’t understand the serious turnaround that is currently happening at Eskom. Today is Saturday, and the ambient temperature is 7 degrees Celsius. My educated guess is that electricity demand is circa 31 000MW. Under André de Ruyter and Jan Oberholzer, 31 000MW meant load shedding Stage 6 and a diesel bill of R3 billion a month.Here we are today, on a Saturday, with ambient temperatures at 7 degrees Celsius and electricity demand around 31 000MW, and the lights are still on, and there is no panic.

“We have come a long way, and we must give credit where it is due. Whatever is happening today at Eskom must be supported and encouraged,” Koko said on X.

For me, then, the nature and content of justice should raise several questions as we connect the dots and read between the lines. The Koko-Molefe-De Ruyter dots from circa 2017 sit directly and smack on the dots of June 2024 that Koko referred to. There is, however, a big, dark hole into which the country sank and a dark cloud hung over South Africa in the intervening period of 2018–2024. This dark age was one of a comedian cast of non-engineers who occupied the dark stage of a revolving door of executives.

The social, economic and political management and justice questions pertaining to the dark ages period circa 2018–2024 February, including the closure of Eskom’s Komati power plant, are relevant because the consequences of our actions that prompted the Zondo Commission on state capture starkly face us in exceptionally complicated and contradictory ways.

This is especially relevant as we call for a national convention after elections. Who should we ask those questions to?

Questions include: What impact did the six years of load shedding have on lives, livelihoods and the economy? Could this have been avoided? Was load shedding necessary after all? Who takes responsibility and accountability for human suffering?

Should De Ruyter and Oberholzer take responsibility just as Molefe and Koko carried the burden of yet an inconclusive matter? In the light of reprieve to Koko and Molefe in the recent judicial judgments, what recourse is available to careers and lives so damaged? And who takes responsibility given that the courts have spoken on their matter? Or is the reprieve just momentary and the fingered duo are yet to have their day in court and justice seen to be done?

Koko said there was no orange suit that matched his size. In fact, taking into account that Koko had to take the NPA to court to act on an earlier judgment that the NPA failed to abide by, a lot remains on the plate of the NPA and implicitly Koko’s human rights are a matter of concern.

As for Molefe, he was accused number 4 and the judgment by the court said accused number 4 must be removed from the charge sheet as there was no evidence for him to belong there.

As we face a national convention, the accused may soon be the accusers and the national convention must have space for such a possibility, for all has to be in the open. Atonement is the first step to remedy and healing of a nation.

If we take a leaf from Koko, how then do we shape our much-anticipated national convention going forward? In particular, what is the role of science, statistical evidence, modelling and science-based planning in our edifice? The body polity of science-policy interface.

After Justice J Steyn passed the order, Koko wrote: “Without a properly functioning judiciary, some of us would have been buried without due process. I hope the outcome of the past elections brings about fundamental changes and respect for the rule of law and the Constitution.”

Again, Koko shows no bitterness, but respect for the Constitution. If it were not for Koko, the public educator, it would have been implausible for some of us who suspect political motives in the halting of load shedding.

That load shedding stopped a month from the national polls and didn’t resume shortly thereafter was nothing short of a miracle. Yet Koko again reassured us that the science of intervention at Eskom suggests that load shedding cannot revisit us. Sandile Zungu could not hold back his praise, posting on X: “Your objectivity is not going unnoticed, Matshela. It’s appreciated actually.”

Dr Pali Lehohla is a Professor of Practice at the University of Johannesburg, a Research Associate at Oxford University, a board member of the Institute for Economic Justice at Wits and a distinguished alumni of the University of Ghana. He is the former Statistician-General of South Africa and former president of the African Symposium for Statistical Development (ASSD)