Matshela Koko
JOHANNESBURG - Eskom yesterday said it had abandoned its plan to terminate suspended executive Matshela Koko’s contract and has pinned its hopes on an ongoing disciplinary hearing to decide Koko’s fate.

Koko last month went to the Labour Court to challenge a recent ultimatum from Eskom’s interim chief executive Phakamani Hadebe to either resign or be fired.

The court granted him an interim order restraining Eskom from terminating his contract. The matter was set for a hearing yesterday.

Eskom legal representative Tembeka Ngcukaitobi told the Labour Court it was not in Eskom’s interest to fire Koko without following a disciplinary process. “At a certain point in time, Eskom contemplated Koko’s dismissal. Eskom has abandoned that course of action,” he said.

Ngcukaitobi said following Eskom’s decision last week to suspend Koko and a commencement of a disciplinary hearing, the Labour Court application had become “moot”. Ngcukaitobi urged Judge Graham Moshoana to dismiss the application. “Is it proper for Your Lordship to be burdened with this case? Is it still appropriate for Your Lordship to intervene? It is moot,” he said.

Ngcukaitobi said Eskom would be bound by the outcome of Koko’s disciplinary hearing. He said Koko’s acquittal would bring the matter to a close. “Eskom will be bound by that process,” he said.

Eskom has appointed Nazeer Cassim to chair Koko’s disciplinary hearing.

In an answering affidavit, Hadebe said, upon receiving the urgent application to the Labour Court, the power utility commenced with a disciplinary process against Koko.

“As matters stand, it is not the intention of Eskom to dismiss Koko without following a disciplinary inquiry. The dismissal of Koko will depend on the findings and recommendation of (Cassim),” said Hadebe. According to Hadebe, Koko’s hearing would be conducted expeditiously, fairly and lawfully. He said Koko and Eskom’s legal representatives met on Monday to discuss the modalities of the inquiry.

Hadebe said it was premature to speculate about the outcome of the hearing. Ngcukaitobi said it was “highly speculative” for Koko’s lawyers to argue that Eskom could still fire Koko, even if he was cleared by the hearing.

Koko’s legal representative, Frans Barrie, however, argued that Eskom had not “unequivocally” abandoned its previous position to fire Koko. Contrary to Ngcukaitobi’s assertions, Barrie said the court should rule on the matter, saying the power utility could go back on its word in future.

“We do not know what the situation will be in future. Eskom’s position is that it is entitled to dismiss Koko on the basis of allegations. They have not abandoned their viewpoint. This is a live dispute you have to resolve,” said Barrie.

He said Eskom was still intent on dismissing Koko on the strength of “mere allegations.” These, he said, included allegation that Koko was heavily involved in corruption at Eskom.

Eskom has suspended Koko for misconduct, gross negligence, corruption and maladministration.

The maladministration allegations relate to, among others, failure to follow procurement processes, breaching company policies and conflict of interest in relation to contracts paid by Eskom to McKinsey & Company Africa, Trillian Management Consulting and Impulse International.

- BUSINESS REPORT