Eskom, South Africa’s state-owned electricity utility, has re-instated former CEO Matshela Koko and acting Group Executive for Group Capital Prish Govender to their positions. The two were facing corruption and nepotism charges for multi-billion rand deals. NUMSA (National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa) has issued a press statement condemning this move, and is considering legal action against Eskom.
Koko had six charges against him, all of which were dropped in the disciplinary hearing that concluded in December. These charges were related to failing to declare conflict of interest before awarding a one billion rand tender to Impulse International, a company in which Koko’s stepdaughter holds shares.
Protests against Eskom
Govender was charged for his involvement in the Trillian-Eskom-McKinsey scandal. 1.5 billion rands were paid to Trillian and McKinsey illegally by Eskom. Govender was also cleared of all charges.
Trillian Capital Partners is linked to the Gupta family, which has close links with the country’s president Jacob Zuma. The Gupta family has been accused of “state capture” by civil rights groups and opposition parties. Reinstatement of Koko and Govender is also being viewed as another attempt of state capturing.
NUMSA, in its press release, has said that Eskom has a history of rewarding corrupt executives. In 2016, Eskom’s board had tried to re-instate Brian Molefe as the CEO. Molefe took an early retirement from his post of CEO after reports emerged of his links with the Gupta family. Now, Brian is a highly paid military colonel, despite having no military background. Molefe was also given a 30 million rand pension from Eskom after his retirement, for which the board manipulated pension fund rules.
Public allegations of the disciplinary hearing against Koko and Govender being a farce became common after both were let off the hook.
“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,” said Irvin Jim, Genreal Secretary of NUMSA, responding to the reinstatement.
NUMSA also said that Eskom is being used by the ANC (African National Congress) government to reward its cadres, and Eskom’s board has repeatedly failed to protect the interests of the South African people. It has called for a complete overhaul of the Eskom board. Instead of ANC and Gupta family stooges, the boards of State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) should consist of representatives from labour and civil society, who act in the public’s interests.
The Union will be consulting lawyers to counter the decision made in the disciplinary hearing. It is also planning to come together with the United Front to take ahead the campaign against Eskom, including protesting the racist wage gap in the state owned company.