In The News South Africa

Former Eskom CEO saw writing on wall when Brown told him to leave board meeting

PARLIAMENT, November 7 – Former Eskom CEO Tshediso Matona on Tuesday told the parliamentary inquiry into the power utility that Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown asked him to leave a board meeting a day before he was suspended from his post.

“I think that request…. kind of started to say to me that something was amiss, something was wrong,” Matona said of being asked to recuse himself, along with Eskom’s then financial director.

Matona said the meeting, the first of a new Eskom board, saw members push for an inquiry into events at the utility.

“In the meeting, they had a hard time making a rationale for that inquiry, and eventually said the minister wanted this inquiry,” he said.

The meeting adjourned, and later reconvened with Brown in attendance. She then asked Matona to recuse himself.

He added that he was therefore not clear as to what was discussed, but was informed the next day of the company’s intention to suspend him, for the reason that he might interfere with the inquiry the board decided to institute.

Matona said he was asked to make representations as to why he should not be suspended but it was clear that the matter had been decided.

“It was a farce. I could see the outcome is predetermined. When I came back to the meeting there was a letter of suspension ready.”

He left Eskom after just five months, in March 2015, because he did not have the money or the heart to fight a legal battle against a government which he had served for some 20 years, he said. It was clear that for whatever reason Eskom did not believe him to have a future with the company, he added.

Matona was replaced by Brian Molefe, who left Eskom under a cloud in late 2016 after he was fingered in irregular dealings with the Gupta family’s Tegeta Exploration.

Last week business rescue practitioner Piers Marsden told the inquiry that Eskom’s stance towards negotiations with coal supplier Glencore, around the quality and pricing of coal from the Optimum mine, fell apart on Molefe’s watch.

Matona said during his term, he was briefed on the matter by Eskom officials and also met with Glencore managers. It was a fraught matter, but both sides were still eager for a resolution, he said.

“The Eskom negotiators felt they were willing to consider a different price, it was just a matter of where the threshold would be that would deliver a win-win… it was in our interest that a solution was found.

He added: “I do recognise that it was a shift of approach from where I left the matter (but) the reason that led him in that direction I could not quite tell.”

Former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela found that Eskom went to extraordinary lengths, including paying nearly R600 million in advance for coal, to help Tegeta obtain the Optimum mine and subsequently a lucrative supply deal with the state-owned company.


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