The South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU) takes note of the Eskom Board media statement of 19 March 2020, titled, Eskom Board Statement on Allegations against the COO. The decision by the Eskom Board to engage an independent senior counsel to investigate the allegations against the Chief Operating Officer, Mr. Jan Oberholzer (COO) is progressive. SAFTU would like to categorically state that since no announcement of the suspension of Mr. Oberholzer has been made, it raises serious questions on the integrity of the process that will unfold. SAFTU hereby places on record that Mr. Oberholzer’s continued presence at Eskom whilst the investigation against him is in progress will seriously compromise the process.
Further, some aspects of the board media statement and statements made to the media on record are categorically incorrect and misrepresentations.
In the Board statement of 19 March 2020 reference is made to the employee “who has since deposed to an affidavit” and EWN on 19 March 2020 reported that “the employee submitted an affidavit to the State Capture Commission of enquiry but retracted it without providing reason.”
The facts are that the employee has been working with the State Capture Commission since June 2019 and continues to do so. He has not retracted any affidavit without providing reason.
The board statement further claims that, “many of the allegations raised in the letters have not previously been made available to the executive management and the board of Eskom.”
The employee lodged a grievance against Mr Oberholzer in September 2019. The grievance was handled by Senior Counsel, appointed by the then Acing Group Chief Executive and Chairman of the Board. The issue that is new now is that Mr. Oberholzer has instituted disciplinary charges against the employee on issues linked to and that have been ventilated and closed under the grievance process.
Further, Mr. Oberholzer has unilaterally transferred the employee to a non-technical area of work that is not suited to his skills. This was done this whist the employee was on sick leave. This unilateral decision executed in absentia is unacceptable and not in line with good corporate governance and labour relations.
The statement that, “Eskom has previously dealt with matters concerning the employee in question, and after an investigation led by an outside senior counsel, the investigation was closed following a thorough a thorough examination of the allegations, to which no substance was found,” is absolutely untrue!
There was a grievance process based on the grievance lodged by the employee against Mr Oberholzer and not an investigation into Mr Oberholzer. These are two very different process with different outcomes. In the grievance, Mr. Oberholzer apologised to the employee for use of vulgar language and certain acknowledgements and recommendations were made in the spirit of driving a harmonious relationship. No breakdown in relations was raised as an outstanding item in the grievance process.
There were no other matters raised by the employee that were dealt with and investigated of which the outcome was that “no substance was found.” A grievance process does not look for substance but to get parties that are not working in harmony to do so.
SAFTU is appalled that Mr. Oberholzer continues to operate at Eskom and calls for his immediate suspension to ensure a transparent investigation process. This and the misrepresentation of facts in the media by Eskom transgresses the principles of transparency and nullifies Eskom’s stance to root out corruption stand against victimisation and abuse of power.