(NB: The story has been updated with a comment from the NPA)
An emboldened former Eskom boss Matshela Koko has slammed President Cyril Ramaphosa after his R2.2-billion fraud and corruption case was struck off the roll.
The Specialised Commercial Crime Court in Middelburg, Mpumalanga struck the matter off the roll on Tuesday due to unreasonable delays.
Koko also faced charges of money-laundering.
Koko along with his wife Mosima and step-daughters Koketso Aren and Thato Choma, as well as former SA Local Government Association (Salga) chief executive Thabo Mokwena were arrested in 2022 in connection with fraud and corruption involving a multi-billion rands contract at Kusile power station.
Hlupheka Sithole, Eskom’s project director at Kusile, lawyer Johannes Coetzee, Watson Seswai and Lese’tsa Johannes Mutchinya were also implicated in the matter.
Koko was accused of using his position of power to try to influence the awarding of a tender to Swiss engineering firm ABB, Impulse International, and other sub-contractors to secure the lucrative R2.2-billion tender at the Kusile power station.
Though Koko and his co-accused are off the hook, the matter could be placed back on the roll at a later stage.
Dismissal a cabinet decision
In a media statement, Koko said a cabinet decision was taken on January 18 2018 to dismiss him from Eskom due to corruption allegations.
“President Cyril Ramaphosa admitted on August 11 2021 at the Zondo commission that he fired me, but it was a joint decision of the cabinet,” Koko said.
“He claimed that he fired me because he wanted to avert a severe crisis at Eskom when in truth he was collapsing Eskom, so that it could be unbundled to allow the IPPs [independent power producers] unfettered access at the expense of Eskom.
“To justify the unlawful cabinet decision, the NPA [National Prosecuting Authority] had to charge me. This they did on October 27 2022. Today, the court has struck the matter from the court roll.
“The national director of public prosecution must re-enroll the matter whenever she thinks the matter is trial-ready.”
He accused the NPA of misdirecting itself by charging him.
“It did not act without fear, favour or prejudice. They were doing somebody a favour,” he said.
“What is hurtful to me is that the NPA was commended by well-respected constituencies in our society for the unlawful arrests.”
Outa not happy with court outcome
Wayne Duvenage, Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) chief executive, said it was frustrating to see the NPA not giving the cases the attention they deserve.
“This [striking of the case off the roll] is more of a technicality and does not make him innocent,” said Duvenage.
“It is a concern obviously that why does it get to that point. One would have thought the prosecuting authorities have all the information and the witnesses are lined up, and we don’t.
“Justice delayed is justice denied. We want to see how he stacks up and answers to all the allegations. It is a bit frustrating because the public are waiting for accountability to happen and we have all these delays.
“But one of the biggest frustration is that our courts are overwhelmed and there is a lot of work and there are lots of cases that don’t get attended to, but this is a big case and there is no reason why their [NPA] ducks are not in a row.”
The NPA’s investigating directorate (ID) said it is confident that the matter will be re-enrolled as soon as outstanding aspects of the investigation have been completed.
Court decision not an acquittal
“It should be noted that this decision is not tantamount to an acquittal or withdrawal of the charges,” said the directorate’s spokesperson Sindisiwe Seboka.
“The ID will continue investigating the case in line with the original case strategy that it developed for this complex matter. The issues raised by the court have been noted.
“The delays were not anticipated at the time of the arrest of the accused due to the complex nature of the case, the extent and the sheer volume, and the digital nature of the evidence seized, in particular subsequent to the arrest and enrolment.
The directorate said work on the compilation of outstanding reports is ongoing.
“The ID will reapply for the matter to be re-enrolled within a reasonable period of time, and as soon as the outstanding aspects of the investigation have been completed.”