Former Eskom boss defends executives’ suspension and golden handshakes
Johannesburg - Former acting Eskom chairperson and the power utility’s one-time interim chief executive Zethembe Khoza on Wednesday defended the suspension and subsequent payment of golden handshakes to four executives.
Khoza told the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture on Wednesday that the four executives – former acting chief executives Matshela Koko and Tshediso Matona, former finance director Tsholofelo Molefe and group capital executive Dan Marokane – were suspended in March 2015 despite Eskom’s board having no dispute with them.
According to Khoza, the executives felt their relationship with the board had broken down and Koko, Matona and Marokane were given 12 months’ pay and certain benefits.
He said he was only involved in the negotiations with Molefe much later.
Commission chairperson Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo asked Khoza why it seemed the board was determined to force Molefe out and was even prepared to go to a lot of extra miles to make sure she left.
Unlike the other three executives, Molefe was paid 18 months’ salary and not 12 months.
Justice Zondo said it appeared the Eskom board was determined that Molefe must leave.
”It doesn’t reflect a board that wanted these executives back,” Zondo said.
In his response, Khoza said he accepted that this seemed to have been the case.
However, Khoza denied former Eskom board spokesperson Khulani Qoma’s evidence that he told him that all the executives could have negotiated better offers but chose to leave.
He said he met Qoma after he was appointed acting chairperson, following Ben Ngubane’s resignation.
Khoza denied Qoma’s claim that he told him that he thought the executives could have asked for more and was surprised they didn’t.
”He makes up a lot of things,” Khoza said of Qoma.
Instead, Khoza continued, Qoma came to his office and told him they needed to improve Eskom’s reputation.
Later, Qoma came to his home when he had a function and promised to send a proposal on how to manage the damage done by the Gupta emails.
Khoza said Qoma’s document included issues that were not discussed with him.
Qoma had told Khoza that most of the reputational damage was done by the leaking of the Gupta emails, which mostly implicated former Eskom and Transnet chief executive Brian Molefe, ex-Eskom and Transnet chief financial officer Anoj Singh and Koko.
Khoza also explained the Eskom board’s role in forcing its then chairperson Zola Tsotsi out in 2015.
”Why did you and other board members kick out Zola Tsotsi? The board made it very difficult for him to continue. Were you planning to pass a vote of no confidence in him or the board wanted to facilitate a dignified exit for him?”Justice Zondo asked.
Khoza explained that the board had challenges with Tsotsi with regards to the governance structure and he had documents but was not forthcoming with them.
He said Tsotsi was also accused of interfering with the work of Eskom executives.
The last straw for the board appeared to have been Tsotsi bringing in consultant Nick Linnell without its knowledge.
”My understanding is that he was a presidential resource that could be used. He was not introduced as a solution to the problem that we had, the suspension of the executives,” Khoza said.
He said the board was unhappy that Tsotsi had not followed proper procurement procedures in acquiring Linnell’s services.
Justice Zondo said he found it strange that the Eskom board used Linnell’s services despite complaining and not checking whether he was properly appointed.
Khoza said Linnell advised the governance committee of the board on the process to allow the suspended executives to make representations.