Johannesburg – Suspended Eskom executive Matshela Koko said he was targeted because of his actions to fight rampant corruption at the Kusile power station.
In his testimony at his disciplinary hearing at Eskom on Thursday, Koko alleged that ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe’s daughter Mbasa Mantashe was a beneficiary of the corruption at Kusile, along with Eskom’s former contracts manager France Hlakudi and executives Abram Masango, and Frans Sithole.
Koko faces charges relating to nepotism and conflict of interest. He allegedly failed to declare, accurately and in a timely manner, that his 26-year-old stepdaughter Koketso Choma’s company, Impulse International, was doing business with Eskom Generation when Koko was head of the unit.
He also faces charges that he interfered in tenders and operations at Kusile, which included his instruction on February 1 to remove Hlakudi from Kusile.
It was in relation to these charges that Koko lifted the lid on his crusade to end corruption at Kusile. Hlakudi was the focus of Koko’s wrath in his testimony.
People implicated in Koko’s evidence have opted not to testify in the hearing. Hlakudi and Sithole have resigned, while Masango is suspended.
Evidence leader for Eskom Advocate Cassim Moosa closed Eskom’s case against Koko last week, after several Eskom witnesses against Koko failed or refused to testify.
Koko said he had evidence of bribes amounting to R61m paid to Eskom executives to facilitate corruption at the Kusile power plant, and had submitted this to the police.
In the middle of the controversy is Tubular Construction Projects (TCP), part of the Tubular Holdings Group, which is accused of manipulating tender processes through Eskom executives.
France Hlakudi allegedly earned about R20m in bribes to enable construction group Tubular to snatch the lucrative Kusile contract from international power groups Alstom and Siemens.
This money was allegedly paid into the bank account of Hlakudi Translation and Interpretation CC from 2015. Hlakudi, Eskom’s contract manager at Medupi and Kusile, is the only member of this business entity.
READ: Eskom boss implicated in dodgy deal
Koko testified that in the last two years, not only was R38m withdrawn from the accounts, but current employees and former Eskom employees were put on retainers at Hlakudi Translation.
He fingered Mbasa Mantashe, daughter of Gwede Mantashe as receiving one of the retainers, worth R970 000.
Fin24 was not immediately able to contact Mbasa Mantashe for her comment. Fin24 could also not immediately independently verify the accuracy of Koko’s statements.
“This is proceeds of crime,” said Koko. “And Hlakudi was arrogant about this, because he knew he was protected.”
Kusile workforce inflated
Koko said the Group Capital never fell under him, until December when be became chief executive, after Brian Molefe’s resignation.
Koko believed that the work force at Kusile was inflated. He said his work at Majuba in the 90’s alerted him that too many people were working on the project.
Kusile and Majuba had similar designs, he believed, and the productivity levels overlap.
At the peak of Majuba there were 5 000 people on site. At Kusile’s peak there was 19 000 people. “You know something was horribly wrong. I wanted to stop it.”
“At worst I would have Kusile to peak at no more than 8 000 workers,” he said. “What are the 11 000 extra people doing at Kusile? The public are paying.”
He said Kusile’s costs are going up, with more and more people getting employed. “And nobody has the balls to stop it.”
Koko said he called Sithole to his house when he became the Eskom boss. “I said Frans, you know deep down in your heart having 19 000 people is not on,” he said.
“I now have the authority to solve it, we are going down that path now.”
“Siemens had been performing well for 15 years. But then strikes are created and labour issues manufactured that forces Siemens not to perform. And then these Eskom executives come to Megawatt Park and say Siemens is not performing.”
Koko, before he became Eskom boss, said he reported his concerns around Siemens to Molefe.
“I said to Molefe, there is a problem here. Competent contractors are being rendered incompetent, and work taken away from them. The work is then given to friends of Eskom executives.”
But Molefe told Koko that Eskom did not function as a kangaroo court, and that he needed solid evidence, Koko testified.
Selling the story to National Treasury
Koko said National Treasury sees whatever Eskom gives them. “We sell them a story that they will believe.”
He cited the Tubular contract, which he said included bribes to Hlakudi.
Hlakudi, who was Eskom’s lead negotiator with Tubular, in September 2015 informed Tubular in a letter that Eskom would negotiate directly with Tubular in respect of the condensators at Kusile’s units four to six.
On the same day, a representative of Tubular allegedly paid R400 000 into the bank account of Hlakudi Translation and Interpretation CC, Koko testified.
He submitted a bank document from FNB to the hearing that showed employees of Tubular deposited the R400 000 to Hlakudi Translation.
“This was done on the same day that Hlakudi was authorised by the tender board committee to negotiate contacts with Tubular.”
On September 2 2015 Hlakudi notified the company that Eskom would indeed negotiate with it for a new, direct contract.
Yet National Treasury approved the transaction, Koko said, because they believed the Eskom version.
Koko testified that a whistleblower handed him information in January about the bribe.
“I wanted to remove Hlakudi immediately.”
But Masango didn’t want to remove Hlakudi, Koko said. “He gave me all sorts of reasons, but my mind was made up that Hlakudi must go.”
Koko said he then became aware that the contract with DB Thermal, Tubular and Alstom was signed on December 10 by Masango, without authorisation from the Eskom board and that a prepayment agreement was included.
Once he started his investigations, he became a target of the media, he alleged.
“I have evidence that Hlakudi was in contact with [Sunday Times’] Mzilikazi wa Afrika 19 times, before the story about my stepdaughter and the conflict of interest broke,” Koko said.
“And my declaration of interest ended up with journalists,” he said. “I have no doubt that [Eskom group secretary Suzanne] Daniels and Hlakudi are responsible for the leaks.”
Koko said while he was away, Hlakudi’s payments just escalated
He said Hlakudi was only suspended recently, because the media started reporting on the wrongdoings at Kusile.
Koko concluded his testimony before cross examination be stating he wanted his job back.
Hlakudi in a lawyer’s letter to Moneyweb earlier said the allegations are false and defamatory.
“I am taking legal advice regarding my rights and the institution of legal action,” he stated.
“You will no doubt ask yourself why these allegations and alleged documentary evidence emerges at this point in time. Clearly, they are part of a desperate and transparent attempt to divert attention from the real issues at hand.”
He promised to prove, at the appropriate time and in the appropriate forum, that these allegations are false and that he did not act unlawfully or improperly in any manner.
* This article will be updated as new information becomes avialable.
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