Matshela Koko Photo: Nicolas Rama/ANA Pictures

Johannesburg - The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) has condemned the decision by the Eskom board to re-instate former acting CEO Matshela Koko and acting head of group capital Prish Govender to their positions, and threatened legal action over the "seemingly bogus disciplinary process".

Koko was disciplined for nepotism and failing to declare a conflict of interest regarding his stepdaughter's ownership of shares in a company which was awarded more than a billion rand in contracts by an Eskom division which he led.

Govender was implicated in the scandal involving consulting firm McKinsey, where he was alleged to have paid money to the firm in a contract which had since been declared unlawful and void by Eskom. Koko would resume his duties on Monday as head of generation, while Govender would be reinstated as head of group capital after a "dodgy" disciplinary process cleared them of all charges, Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim said on Saturday.

"Eskom has found creative ways to reward thievery and corruption. Numsa is disturbed that there seems to be a pattern emerging at Eskom where processes are abused in order to ensure that certain compromised executives are protected from taking responsibility for corruption. Last year the board tried to legitimise Brian Molefe’s return as CEO of the power utility, in spite of damning corruption allegations against him by the public protector because of his cosy relationship with the Gupta family. And when that failed, the board manipulated pension fund rules in order to justify an outrageous pension payout of R30 million," he said.

For over 10 years the Eskom board and management team had been characterised by gross mismanagement, wasteful expenditure, and corruption. Instead of dealing decisively with the looters, the board had found creative ways to reward thievery and fraudulent behaviour.

"In a case of blatant nepotism, such as is the case was with Koko, it is simply disgraceful that he could have been let off the hook. His disciplinary hearing was marred with allegations of board interference and witnesses were threatened with intimidation, but he was cleared of all charges. Ordinary workers at Eskom are subject to a very stringent and brutal disciplinary process when they are accused of even the most minor transgressions, but seemingly top executives are rewarded or given a slap on the wrist for their crimes," Jim said. 

Interim board chairperson Zithembe Khoza had been accused of asking State Security Minister Bongani Bongo to bribe the evidence leader at the parliamentary inquiry into allegations of state capture and corruption at Eskom in order to derail the hearings. Acting CEO Sean Maritz was also disciplined for nepotism in the past.

"It is, therefore, no surprise that Koko and Govender would be cleared when those they work with are so severely compromised. To add insult to injury, the working class majority who are already economically overburdened will be expected to pay even more for electricity to an entity which has consistently failed to demonstrate basic good corporate governance, and which has consistently wasted billions of rand in resources.

"The Eskom board is clearly showing the people of South Africa the middle finger by allowing these compromised executives to return to their positions. It seems the disciplinary process was a mockery and an insult to all those who believe in good corporate governance and transparency in the running of state-owned enterprises [SoEs],” Jim said.,

Thus, Numsa repeated its call for the boards of all SOEs, and in particular the board at Eskom, to be scrapped. The only way to guarantee good, clean governance was for the SoE board to be made up of representatives from labour, civil society, business, and the state.

"The board of Eskom has failed repeatedly in its oversight role. It has been used by factions of the ANC government to enrich and reward cadres, instead of acting in the interests of the majority of South African people.

"As long as the ANC government is in charge, nothing will change at Eskom if the structure of the board does not change. The ANC will keep deploying people to SoEs to loot and to act in their narrow political interests. No amount of condemnation will bring back the billions in wasted revenue which the Eskom management team have squandered.

"The board has consistently shown that it cannot be trusted to act in the interests of ordinary people. Therefore the only solution is for the board to be made up of representatives who will act in the interests of the majority as a whole.

"Numsa will be consulting lawyers to see what legal options we have to counter the seemingly bogus disciplinary process. Furthermore, together with the United Front, we will intensify the campaign against Eskom and the culture of corruption through more pickets and demonstrations. We will also put pressure on the power utility to deal decisively with the racist wage gap which continues unabated in the workplace. It is shameful that in 2018 this is still a problem at Eskom," Jim said.
African News Agency/ANA