South Africa

DAYS OF ZONDO

Ex-Eskom executive Matshela Koko denies knowingly sharing info with Gupta’s Salim Essa

Former Eskom CEO Matshela Koko testifies at the Zondo Commission in Johannesburg on 1 March 2021. (Photo: Gallo Images / Papi Morake)

Former Eskom executive Matshela Koko returned to the State Capture Commission on Monday and continued to deny having knowingly shared insider information with Gupta associate Salim Essa.

Former Eskom executive Matshela Koko has told the State Capture Commission he had no relationship with Gupta associate Salim Essa in 2015 while Essa, the Guptas and their businesses established lucrative deals with the energy parastatal.

Koko has been accused of introducing his colleagues to Essa in March 2015 before he was suspended and of sharing confidential information with the controversial [email protected] email account attributed to “businessman” and believed to belong to Essa.

“I have no relationship with Mr Essa. I have never met or corresponded with Mr Essa telephonically or otherwise in 2015,” Koko told Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo while admitting to meeting Essa in 2016.

Koko sent a raft of emails to the infoportal account after returning from suspension in July 2015, which included information later linked to lucrative deals between Gupta-associated businesses and Eskom.

Repeatedly questioned about the emails, he maintained that he received the address from former Eskom legal head Suzanne Daniels and thought he was corresponding with the then chairperson Dr Ben Ngubane. Daniels had denied she gave Koko the email address or that it was Ngubane’s.

Koko spent a considerable portion of his testimony on Monday, his fourth appearance at the commission, accusing Daniels of lying to implicate him. Daniels has accused Koko and former Eskom CFO Anoj Singh of conspiring to facilitate the Guptas’ purchase of Optimum Coal and has claimed that Koko had lied to the commission. On Monday, Koko called her a “pathological liar”.

“I did not send Eskom information to a third party knowingly,” said Koko.

“At the time I was sending the emails, I did not understand Dr Ngubane to be ‘businessman’ but based on the evidence that’s led I have come to understand that infoportal has been linked to ‘businessman’.”

Koko said that at the time he didn’t question whether the account belonged to Ngubane, even when simple scrutiny would have raised obvious questions.

Following the Eskom board’s decision to prepay Optimum Coal R1.68-billion for coal in December 2010, “businessman” sent Koko a proposal to turn the prepayment into a guarantee for the Gupta-owned Tegeta Exploration, which was attempting to purchase Optimum from Glencore.

Koko simply forwarded the email to his colleagues without wondering why Eskom’s chairperson would be getting involved in drafting such proposals.

In the 2018 parliamentary inquiry into Eskom, Koko said he’d never emailed “businessman”, but he clarified on Monday that while he had emailed the infoportal account, he’d never associated it with “businessman” or Essa.

The former Eskom executive was also quizzed about an email he received in December 2015 from a travel agent about visas for an upcoming family trip to Indonesia and Dubai.

The travel agency, Travel Excellence, featured regularly in the #GuptaLeaks and it emailed the [email protected] account, copying Koko and Essa to the correspondence, to say, “Your one visa is out.”

Koko told the commission that he thought it was convenient for Daniels and Ngubane to arrange his visas and he didn’t notice the other names on the email chain.

Evidence leader advocate Paul Seleka told the inquiry that a Travel Excellence staff member had stated under oath that Essa paid R100,000 for Koko’s travels.

“Somebody has to be held to account for the conspiracy and the lies,” Koko responded.

He said he had proof that he paid another travel agency R332,000 for his family’s trip and suggested the evidence against him had been fabricated. He denied the claim that Essa could have paid for part of his trip without his knowledge. 

Koko visited Dubai and stayed at the Oberoi Hotel on that trip, where guests of the Guptas were often accommodated.

He said he was in Dubai in the first few days of January 2016 rather than the last days of 2015, which would have coincided with former mineral resources minister Mosebenzi Zwane’s trip to meet the Guptas in Dubai.

Koko has been accused of lying to Parliament about his claim that he did not travel to Dubai in 2015, but he said his travel itinerary was proof he was there in 2016.

Zondo noted the various allegations linking Koko to Essa and the concerted effort that would have to have been made to falsely link the pair if Koko’s version was to be believed.

“If it is true, it’s like Mr Salim Essa was following you,” remarked the chairperson.

Koko suggested there was a conspiracy aimed at implicating him and that his accusers must have benefited from tying him to allegations of State Capture.

Koko is yet to testify in detail about the transactions Eskom made with Gupta-linked businesses while he was an executive and is due to return to give further evidence.

Former Eskom CEO Brian Molefe is scheduled to testify at the commission on Tuesday.

In her State Capture report, former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela detailed how Molefe was in close contact with the Guptas in late 2015 and early 2016 when Eskom executives are alleged to have facilitated the family’s takeover of Optimum.

Molefe testified briefly in January 2021 before Zondo adjourned the sitting after learning he had been exposed to Covid-19.

The former Eskom CEO came out swinging, accusing Glencore and its former chairperson President Cyril Ramaphosa of improperly trying to use their political influence to avoid Optimum Coal having to pay around R2-billion in penalties to Eskom. DM

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All Comments 5

  • Koko should consider a career change. With his talent for creating fiction, he could give Deon Meyer a run for his money. Maybe something he can do to while away the hours when he’s in C-Max?

  • Another typical zuma and ilk crony and enabler who suffers from convenient amnesia and who has learnt to lie, deny, deflect, obfuscate etc. Dishonest, devious and corrupt to the core with not an iota of honesty, morals, ethics and integrity. We really know how to pick them in this country!

  • The travel Agent lost the documents, ahh shame that is ok then.
    what about your bank, do they not have records of transactions or did the cash come out of a brown bag ?

  • We could have saved two years if truth serums were a real thing.

    Something that would be interesting is an article describing where the prime culprits are now, where do they work, what does their lifestyle reveal? I cannot imagine any company employing these people??

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