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Court orders Eskom to pay Koko’s legal fees

Former Eskom's head of generation Matshela Koko.
Former Eskom's head of generation Matshela Koko.

The Labour Court sitting in Johannesburg has ordered power utility Eskom to pay former head of generation Matshela Koko's legal fees.

On January 26‚ Koko filed for an urgent interdict in the Labour Court after Eskom's new board gave him an ultimatum to resign within 24 hours or be fired.

Koko said he believed he still had a crucial role to play at Eskom.

"It is hereby declared that the ultimatum issued by Mr Phakamani Hadebe requiring the applicant to resign by Friday 26 January 2018‚ failing which his employment shall terminate by 10am‚ is unlawful. The respondent [is] to pay costs which include costs of January 26 2018 and the employment of two counsel‚" said Labour Court judge Graham Moshoana on Thursday.

Koko‚ 49‚ said he wanted to prove to Eskom that they couldn't do as they pleased as they failed to follow labour practices when firing employees for misconduct.

This follows the state-owned entity attempting to fire Koko last month‚ based on a directive from newly elected President Cyril Ramaphosa without first giving him an opportunity to state his case. Moshoana said this move was unlawful.

"The actions of the respondent on January 25 2018 of intending to terminate the employment of the applicant in breach of his employment contract are unlawful and ought to be declared as such‚" Moshoana said.

Koko however resigned last week on the day of his new disciplinary hearing‚ citing strain on his family as the reason and stating that it was not an admission of guilt.

Contacted for comment‚ Koko said: "Three of my [former] employees at Eskom were dismissed without a hearing. They were called in and they were told‚ 'tomorrow you resign and you go because we have an instruction from government that says you must go'. That is unmitigated misuse of power by a democratically elected officials and I went to the labour court to stop the unmitigated abuse of power by public officials."

He said that he was not bothered if Eskom was under the impression that there was a prima facie case for him to answer or not. The power utility had no right to direct him to resign or dismiss him without following proper labour laws.

Koko‚ who was accused of awarding contracts of around R1-billion to a company linked to his stepdaughter Koketso Choma but was cleared of all charges after going through an internal disciplinary hearing‚ said thousands of employees should make use of the democracy that was fought for in order to fight unfair dismissals whether in or outside of the employment of parastatals.

Eskom said they were aware of the judgment handed down on Thursday and would wait for Koko to send them an invoice stating how much the power utility should pay.

"The issue of costs will be determined once Mr Koko sends his costs for taxation in the ordinary course. Any such costs which are due by Eskom could be offset against the costs order granted in favour of Eskom in the urgent interdict Eskom was successful in against Mr Koko on February 4 2018 in the High Court‚" said Eskom.

Koko's lawyer Asger Gani was unavailable for comment at the time of publication of this story.

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