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SAFTU’S RESPONSE ON ESKOMS THIRD FALSE NARRATIVE CLEARING JAN OBERHOLZER OF ALL WRONGDOING

 

SAFTU calls

  • For the Immediate resignation of the Eskom Board, The Eskom CEO, The Eskom COO and the Eskom Spokesperson Skhonathi Mantshantsha.

SAFTU takes note of the Eskom Media statement released today, 25 September and titled “Eskom CEO cleared of all wrongdoing in payment dispute with Aveng” and places on record that this is the third such media statement that has built a false narrative that Jan Oberholzer has been exonerated of all allegations of corruption , victimisation and abuse of power in three separate independent hearings , the first two being by Adv Eric Mkhawane and Adv Nazeer Cassim. The third report appears to be an internally put together document with a one sided narrative released through social media; and for all intents and purposes is hearsay and does not satisfy the requirements of a fair and transparent forensic investigation. Neither the Adv Cassim Report , nor the “Third internal Exoneration Report” were released to the whistleblower for input or comment prior to being released to the public.

The following must be noted:

  1. Corruption Watch, a non-profit organisation that provides a platform for reporting corruption has come out in full support of an Eskom whistleblower that reported breaches in corporate governance pertaining to the Aveng matter to the State Capture Commission. In this regard Corruption Watch has written to the Eskom CEO and Eskom Board Chairperson, asking that the whistleblower be protected from victimisation at the hands of Jan Oberholzer. Corruption Watch has also issued media statements refuting as false, claims by Eskom that Jan Oberholzer has been exonerated in any of the so called independent investigations.

 

  1. SAFTU Secretary General, Zwelinzima Vavi has represented the whistleblower at the CCMA and has documentary and other evidence in the form of voice recordings to disprove claims made by Eskom. Although victimisation of a whistleblower is of great concern to SAFTU; of more serious concern are the devious and underhanded tactics employed by Eskom in managing Jan Oberholzer’s reputation and maintaining his innocence; even to the extent of creating and placing ostensibly independent articles, written in some cases by conflicted individuals, in the mainstream media. Further Eskom is celebrating losing a court case and R42 million simply because they see it as vindication of Jan Oberholzer.

 

  1. Having received no response from the Eskom CEO, the Chairman of the Eskom board or the Minister of Public Enterprises, SAFTU has escalated the issue of the victimisation of a whistleblower to Parliament , the office of the Public Protector and to President Ramaphosa.

 

  1. In response to the media release dated today, 25 September 2020, SAFTU calls for the urgent intervention of President Ramaphosa and the immediate resignation of the Eskom Board, the Eskom CEO, The COO and the Eskom Spokesperson. It is evident that Eskom has either wittingly or unwittingly, through the creation of false narratives, taken on the role of a reputation launderer for Jan Oberholzer despite being in possession of documents and reports that prove that the Chief Operating Officer has NOT been cleared of corruption. There is no correlation between the hard evidence in possession of Eskom and the statements being put out on the media by the Eskom CEO, Eskom Spokesperson, Skhonathi Mantshantsha and Eskom COOs Spokesperson, Chris Yelland. Instead of the Eskom Board and Eskom CEO being guardian to corporate reputation, culture and integrity of the state owned enterprise that they are appointed to run, they are instead exposing Eskom and consequently the country to one of the biggest reputational threats facing organisations today, that is the reputational risk that can result from allegations of non-compliance with corporate governance and corruption. The reputational damage to South Africa caused by Eskom is creating obstacles to local and foreign direct investment, flows to the stock market, economic growth, and global competitiveness. Mismanagement of tax-payers money by Eskom’s largely White management is eating into the nations wealth and channelling money away from projects dedicated towards supporting the poor and vulnerable who depend mostly on government for support.

Now, let us get to the plain truth. Up to this point we have withheld names and information at our access ; but given Eskoms unethical behaviour we are now of the belief that when one remains silent in the face of injustice; one is complicit in the wrong doing.

These are the undisputed facts that are not manipulated by a reputation management marketing company.

  1. A General Manager at Eskom raised concerns based on certain business activities that were in breach of Eskom governance processes with the State Capture Commission of Inquiry. This was done based on and after he commissioned an internal assurance and forensics audit on the Aveng matter, the outcome of which was a 65 page strictly private and confidential document dated 26 February 2019. This report was received by Jan Oberholzer yet Mr Oberholzer and Mr Andre De Ruyte are silent on this report, and on the findings of this report. SAFTU requests the Minister or Public Enterprises and President Ramaphosa to request this report from Eskom.

 

  1. In the whistle blower’s report to the Zondo Commission, A key concern raised was the interest taken by Mr Danie Moller in 3 key projects within his portfolio i.e. the Majuba Rail Project, Ankerlig Transmission Koeburg Second Supply(ATKSS) Project and Battery Energy Storage Systems (BESS)Project. Mr Moller became operationally involved and took over the project teams role in dealing with the Aveng Claim. The project team , however were clear from the outset that Eskom governance processes must be followed and that National Treasury approval must be obtained.

 

  1. Mr Danie Moller acted without a mandate, against internal Eskom governance and against treasury regulations when he established an agreement with Aveng. Mr Moller and Aveng then got the Adjudicator to endorse this agreement. Concrete evidence in this regard is available.

 

  1. The Zondo Commission conducted a thorough investigation on this matter and issued an outcome report to the then acting Group Chief Executive Officer, Mr Jabu Mabuza. Mr Andre De Ruyter and Mr Oberholzer are silent on the recommendations of the Zondo Commission Outcome report, whilst they are focussing much time, energy and resources in a futile attempt to spin a web of lies against an innocent and courageous whistleblower who put himself at risk by making a choice to disclose illegitimate practices under the control of his employer to an external channel which was provided for by his management structure through their dedicated offices in Megawatt Park. SAFTU requests the Minister of Public Enterprises and President Ramaphosa to request and read the Zondo Commission Outcome Report.

 

  1. This report was released after 20 August 2019, an internal memo was sent to Mr Jabu Mabuza to appraise him of the findings of the State Capture Commission Investigations 3 days later on 23 August 2019. As per the memorandum, the State Capture Commission found that Mr Moller had indeed facilitated an irregular settlement without the requisite internal approvals and authority and to the exclusion of the project managers. It also found that Mr Moller acted in a manner that was biased in favour of Aveng and not in the best interests of Eskom. By the time that the State Capture Commission of Enquiry had released its report, Aveng had already served court papers to Eskom claiming the R40 million and interest based on the Adjudicators award. The State Capture Commission requested that Eskom oppose the Aveng Court Application, and in addition use the Assurance and Forensics Report and the State Capture Commission reports to buttress the illegality of the decision taken by Mr Moller to the detriment of Eskom as an organ of State. Eskom has in todays media statement announced the loss of its case against Aveng as a victory that exonerates Mr Oberholzer of any wrongdoing. The words specifically say “ The high court ruling has now vindicated the COOs stance on the payment dispute with Aveng”. The media statement is silent on the State Capture Commissions findings, and on Danie Moller’s involvement and in a recent interview on Cape Talk, Mr Oberholzer gives a completely biased interview with Kieno Kummies painting himself as a corruption buster, fighting the good fight and being on the receiving end of persecution on account of his anti -corruption stance. He still persists with the false narrative that Mr Chettiar took sick leave when confronted with performance issues and remain silent on Mr Chettiar’s Disclosure to the Zondo Commission, and the outcome thereof. Mr Chettiar is not allowed right of response whenever Mr Oberholzer lies and defames on 702 and Cape-Talk; this in itself is abuse of power on the part of Oberholzer- why would he enjoy the opportunity to sway public opinion against Mr Chettiar when he has no right to response?

 

  1. Eskom’s High Court loss to Aveng is no victory to be celebrated in that it exonerates the COO, the question to be asked is “What action was taken against Mr Moller for his actions and conduct in relation to subjecting Eskom to a R42 million loss by acting without the requisite approvals and authority and why is Eskom hiding Mr Moller’s misconduct and protecting him?”

 

  1. The media statement dated today, 25 September 2020 , of Mr Oberholzer also says that the allegations has “dragged the name of a key and dedicated employee into non-existent corruption scandals” The employee that has actually been harassed and victimised and subject to false accusations and reputational damage is Mr Chettiar. Mr Oberholzer has made hearsay statements claiming that Mr Chettiar was a poor performer and when confronted for poor performance, became a whistleblower and took leave. The facts are that Mr Chettiar was an exceed performer for his entire career in Eskom and since the means by which performance is measured is through the performance appraisal system, evidence is available. He has only received an exceed score for performance even up until his last performance appraisal signed off by Mr Oberholzer in December 2019. Even whilst victimising him and trying to nail him for performance, Mr Oberholzer could not succeed in lowering his performance score.

 

  1. Further, barely two weeks after the Zondo Commission outcome report was released , the victimisation of Mr Chettiar by Oberholzer suddenly began had become so severe over days that Mr Chettiar had to consult with the Zondo Commission in order to be advised on a way forward. He was advised through reliable sources that a suspension letter was prepared for him and Mr Oberholzer was daily raising his voice and regularly using vulgar terminology with Mr Chettiar, he questioned him about going to the Zondo Commission and said he will fire Mr Chettiar and fight him in court with Eskom’s money. The Commission advised Mr Chettiar to follow internal processes, document the actions and lodge an internal grievance, which he did on 13 September 2019, based on, amongst other matters, Mr Oberholzer’s behaviour towards him not even 10 days after the internal memorandum pertaining to the Zondo Commission findings was circulated. This grievance was heard by Adv Mkhawane and was resolved and closed in terms of Eskom’s grievance procedure with Mr Oberholzer saying he loves and trusts Mr Chettiar and apologised to Mr Chettiar. It is this grievance outcome report which forms part of Eskom and Mr Oberholzer’s and Eskom’s false narratives. Both are continually referring to this grievance outcome report as the first independent investigation outcome which cleared the COO of all allegations of corruption. The report is available and the findings are clear to anyone who can read. It was not an investigative outcome report, but even as a grievance outcome report, it does not say anything about Mr Oberholzer being exonerated.

 

  1. More than 3 months after the grievance was closed and resolved, in contravention with Eskom’s grievance procedure, In late December 2019, Mr Oberholzer made good on his promises to charge Mr Chettiar for going to the Zondo Commission and fight him with Eskom’s money. He issued Mr Chettiar with charge sheets with a sanction of dismissal for the grievances that Mr Chettiar raised and which were resolved and closed earlier in the year. Amongst the issues raised in his grievance, Mr Chettiar pointed out the Mr Oberholzer asked Mr Chettiar to move his brother-in-law , Mr Gregory Jacobs to the ATKSS project to Cape Town without disclosing that it was his brother-in-law. Later on Mr Chettiar discovered that Mr Jacobs had already been moved without Mr Chettiar’s approval or authority. Mr Oberholzer admitted this, as per the minutes, but said there was no pressure. However there is now another false narrative that he was found not guilty of nepotism. Mr Chettiar also raised that Mr Oberholzer made the following statement “Your projects poor performance and inability to deliver now means that Danie Moller must be hung” – this points clearly to the fact that Mr Oberholzer was angered by the Commission’s recommendations to take action against Moller and that everything has changed after Mr Oberholzer became aware of Mr Chettiar’s affidavit to the Commission. Mr Chettiar also raised that Mr Oberholzer asked him to replace a capable employee, Mr Lwando Limba with Mr Pieter Underhay as the battery storage project manager. It is for raising those grievances that Mr Oberholzer issued charge sheets to Mr Chettiar with a dismissal sanction. That is complete abuse of power, Mr Oberholzer and Mr Chettiar are both employees of Eskom, Mr Chettiar was acting well within his rights, Mr Oberholzer was abusing his position and authority as COO to punish Mr Chettiar for standing up to him. Mr Chettiar was by no means defaming Eskom by raising a grievance again Jan Oberholzer. To charge a colleague or junior for raising a grievance completely contravenes the grievance policy.

 

  1. As regards Mr Oberholzer’s and Chris Yelland’s insinuations of “sick leave”, it is the case that Mr Chettiar has had a bout of ill health which is related to work related stress and evidence in the form of specialist reports will attest to this. Further he was hospitalised for surgery and hospitalized twice thereafter and had an accident in which he broke some ribs. This is not something that one makes up because available medical evidence cannot be disputed. But if you look at his sick leave records for the past 20 odd years, his average sick leave was 2 or 3 days per year.

 

  1. In response to what Mr Oberholzer claims to be poor performance in Camden, it is far from the truth. Once again this is evident in Mr Chettiar’s performance scores. Mr Chettiar picked up irregularities in Camden, it must be noted that Mr Chettiar was appointed to work in this area for under 2 years. To get a clearer understanding of what was going on, Mr Chettiar initiated an Assurance and Forensics Audit, which Mr Oberholzer and Andre De Ruyte again are silent on. The Assurance and Forensics Audit made findings that Danie Odendaal who was the GM: Engineering was alleged to have influenced technical specifications in favour of a company called Rula belonging to his brother. Danie Odendaal was subsequently placed on suspension, and to date it is unknown what the outcome of the Rula matter is. Thereafter the Odendaal brothers withheld designs which caused further delays. Mr Oberholzer is very well aware of the issues on Mr Chettiar’s projects, many of which are historical and has had absolutely no problems until he became aware that Mr Chettiar had been engaging the State Capture Commission. There was a sudden and shocking turn in events in the two weeks after the SCC report was released. To go into details refuting each allegation in the third report which was only released through social media would be too lengthy, however Mr Chettiar has compiled a very comprehensive report with annexures as evidence pointing out the false narrative. Very key is that Mr Chettiar has never been given an opportunity, in terms of good corporate governance to view both the Nazeer Cassim report and the third , it would appear “Oberholzer and Yelland” report. It must be noted that prior to Yelland’s recent Bell Pottinger styled reputation laundering media articles claiming poor performance, Mr Chettiar had already issued him with a legal letter for making false and defamatory statement in an article published on Money Web on 31 August 2020. It serves Mr Yelland’s interests to create a false narrative of poor performance after receiving a lawyers letter threatening to sue him for publishing untrue statements which create reputational damage to Mr Chettiar.

 

  1. SAFTU has gone on record several times regarding the Adv Nazeer Cassim report. Eskom claims that the report exonerates Mr Oberholzer, the report does not. Once again documentary evidence says that Mr Oberholzer was found guilty but Eskom says he is innocent.

 

  1. Mr Chettiar was accused of being a “Chief Protagonist “ in the campaign against Mr Oberholzer, an attempt was made to make Mr Chettiar the source of all the allegations made against Oberholzer. This was in order to cover up the fact there were several complaints/reports and Whistleblowers who submitted allegations or made disclosures against Mr Oberholzer.

 

  1. The question SAFTU asks is what did Mr Chettiar do wrong? The answer is that he is a dedicated, honest, committed employee who courageously acted in the best interests on his Employer. No aspersions can be cast on him work-wise or character wise. Over the years he has received several awards from Eskom for Leadership, Innovation, People Development and Integrity and is widely respected for his work ethic.

 

  1. The manner in which false narratives are planned, packaged and distributed cannot change the facts for which evidence is available; further Eskom officials are conflicting each other and tripping over themselves in a wild frenzy to cover up for one individual. The media statement today says, in no uncertain terms, that they are happy to lose to Aveng as long as the R42 million loss vindicates Jan Oberholzer. It is a loss that they are celebrating because they perceive it to be favourable for Jan Oberholzer’s case. Let it be placed on record that SAFTU will never be silenced by Eskom’s attempts to manipulate and influence messaging using nefarious means. No harshly worded media statement will stop the truth from emerging.