'I have been caught in the crossfire'

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'I have been caught in the crossfire'

Senior Eskom executive Matshela Koko protests his innocence into state capture at parliamentary inquiry

Linda Ensor

Eskom’s head of generation‚ Matshela Koko‚ was the second senior executive in as many days to protest his innocence in Parliament of any involvement in the state capture of the utility.
Koko appeared on Wednesday before the parliamentary inquiry into state capture being conducted by the public enterprises portfolio committee. He testified about the purchase of Optimum Coal Mine by the Gupta-owned Tegeta Exploration and Resources from Glencore‚ the R659m prepayment that Eskom paid to Tegeta for coal supplies and corporate governance at the company.
Koko denied being part of an alleged strategy to use Eskom’s resources to build up Tegeta as a significant coal company‚ and denied being involved in corruption.
“In any organisation‚ and possibly more so in an organisation of Eskom’s size‚ extent and geographical reach‚ policies and procedures that seek to achieve sound corporate governance can be undermined and circumvented by dishonest and corrupt officials at various levels within the organisation. Such conduct also occurs at Eskom and has‚ unfortunately‚ occurred also at senior levels of management within Eskom‚” Koko told MPs.
“I have‚ throughout my career‚ strived to comply and enforce compliance with Eskom’s policies and procedures and have resisted attempts — for example by a previous chairman of the board‚ Mr Zola Tsotsi — to pursue avenues that do not accord with Eskom’s internal rules. I continue to subscribe to best practice corporate governance‚” he said.
He criticised what he said were “the many falsehoods and misleading reports published about me that are‚ on my reading‚ part of a frenzied campaign calculated to break Eskom and to discredit the government. I have been caught in the crossfire and‚ arising from the simple magnitude of the campaign‚ have been unable to defend myself against it. It has all been very‚ very hurtful.”Koko said that it was his attempts to root out corruption in the Medupi and Kusile projects that led to allegations of wrongdoing on his part.
He described the background to the purchase by Tegeta of Optimum in December 2015‚ emphasising that this was in the best interests of Eskom as it secured coal supplies to the Hendrina power station. “Eskom exhibited a determination to maximise its economic benefits from any deal to be struck‚” Koko stressed.
“The benefits derived from the overall deal arose from Eskom’s insistence that Optimum continue to deliver coal to it at R150 per tonne until December 2018‚” he said. This deal was struck in the context of Glencore’s demands that the price be doubled to R300 per tonne in order to ensure the continued operations of Optimum.
If not‚ the company warned‚ Optimum would have to be put into liquidation. Koko said Eskom’s stance was that it was “not going to succumb to Glencore’s strong-arm tactics“.
He said Optimum’s business rescue practitioners had introduced Gupta-owned Oakbay to Eskom as a potential buyer of Optimum via its subsidiary Tegeta.
“The narrative that has been spun by the media and others is that Optimum was driven into business rescue by Eskom with the intention to enable Tegeta to acquire Optimum Coal Holding’s assets‚ and that when Tegeta by April 2015 fell short in putting up the money‚ Eskom made a prepayment to Tegeta to enable it to make payment‚” Koko said.
“Eskom then‚ moreover‚ in 2017 knocked down its penalty claim from R2.18bn to less than R600m further to assist Tegeta‚ all as part of an overall strategy to establish Tegeta as a substantial player in the coal mining sector. I deny that any such overall strategy ever existed‚” Koko said.

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