SAFTU has deliberately not responded to the Eskom statement reportedly exonerating its Chief Operations Officer, Jan Oberholzer, with a hope that the power utility CEO and its acting board chairperson will do the honourable, take South Africans into their confidence and tell us how such conclusion was reached.
But instead the Eskom cabal decided to play the man – an innocent whistleblower – instead of the game.
SAFTU has written a letter to the acting board chairperson, one Professor Malegapuru William Makgoba, asking him to protect the whistleblower and bring some kind of integrity to Eskom but instead it looks like Makgoba turned a blind eye to reality and turned the other side while the whistle-blower, an experienced employee with years of good standing within the company, was victimized, vilified and hanged to dry as the power utility tries every trick in the book to protect its COO whom we believe still has a lot to answer beside their report, which nobody has seen, exonerating him.
The whistle-blower, who is the main complainant in the matter, wasn’t even given the copy of the report, SAFTU and Corruption Watch, who also separately wrote to Eskom management about the victimization of the whistleblower weren’t furnished with the report to see how the COO was exonerated. This is a clear case of people who have a lot to hide and lack any transparency or accountability.
We were expecting that Eskom CEO or the acting board chairperson will have a courtesy and decency to inform SAFTU that:
- A external SC has been appointed
- The terms of the reference of the investigation
- The persons to be interviewed
- The time frames of the investigations
We read with extreme disappointment the statement issued by Eskom titled “Senior Counsel Clears Eskom Chief Operating Officer of corruption, dishonesty, abuse of power “issued on Wednesday 15 April 2020 with concern. It must be noted that SAFTU has and other bodies also previously refuted and corrected non-factual statements made by Eskom to the Media to be untrue.
Firstly, the senior counsels report which was released to Eskom on 4 April 2020 was not released to the affected parties. The Senior Counsel Report was in the possession of Eskom from 4 April to 11 April after which a decision was taken by Eskom to issue a media statement exonerating Mr Oberholzer of all allegations made against him by different parties. As a body that raised some of the concerns around Mr Oberholzer with Eskom, Eskom showed disrespect to SAFTU by merely releasing a media statement and not engaging SAFTU as a complainant and a key stakeholder. We have seen the Corruption Watch also making the same issue in a public statement.
Further, the media report released by Eskom has factual inaccuracies and false inferences. It must be noted that the last media statement on the Eskom Chief Operating Officer also has inaccuracies. SAFTU brought this to the attention of Eskom and there was no response, nor any denial on the part of Eskom. The link to SAFTUS response to ESKOM’s first media statement is https://saftu.org.za/saftu-on-eskom-board-statement-on-allegations-against-the-coo/.
The link to the response to Eskom’s first media statement issued by Corruption Watch is https://www.corruptionwatch.org.za/cw-responds-to-eskoms-whistle-blowing-statement/ ADD SAFTU
SAFTU is of the strong view that the presence of the Chief Operating Officer at ESKOM during the investigation has compromised the credibility of the process from an objectivity and influence perspective.
There were widespread demands for him to be suspended whilst being investigated so as to ensure that he does not interfere with the investigations but these requests fell on deaf ears.
The first paragraph of the Eskom media statement dated 15 April 2020 reads:
“After a series of allegations of corruption, dishonesty, conflict of interest and abuse of power were levelled by an employee against Eskom’s Chief Operating Officer (COO) in both the media and to some civil society organisations in March this year, the Eskom board appointed an external Senior Counsel to conduct an investigation into the allegations and to advise the board and the Group Chief Executive Officer on the way forward”.
The statement says that allegations of corruption, dishonesty, conflict of interest and abuse of power were levelled by an employee against Eskom’s Chief Operating Officer.
This is factually incorrect. The role played by the employee in question is summarised as follows:
The employee lodged a grievance via Eskom’s internal labour relations processes against Eskom’s Chief Operating Officer in September 2019.
The charges on the charge sheet emanated from the grievance which was concluded in October 2019. Issuing charges after a grievance is closed is in breach of Eskom’s internal grievance procedure. The grievance lodged by the employee against Mr Oberholzer was finalised and resolved before Mr Oberholzer issued a notice to attend a disciplinary hearing.
Thereafter the employee approached SAFTU and Corruption Watch, and raised concerns about victimisation and an occupational detriment that he had suffered after lodging the grievance against the Chief Operating Officer (COO) in September 2019.
The employee also raised concerns with SAFTU and Corruption Watch about being transferred from his post (without consultation) after having made a general protected disclosure on business irregularities with regard to Contractor claim payments to the State Capture Commission. This particular matter on the claims has been on the media platform.
Based on the disclosure made by the employee, the State Capture Commission recommended that Eskom does not make a payment to a certain contractor for claims instituted against Eskom.
In addition, the employee claimed unfair labour practice with respect to the Chief Operating Officer unilaterally moving the employee from his formally appointed position as General Manager: Mega Projects in Eskom. The employee has a technical skill set – however he was transferred to Human Resources without mutual agreement and whilst he was on sick leave for surgery.
Just last week, the National Union of Mineworkers issued a statement decrying that Eskom has asked 60 all white former Eskom engineers to return at astronomical amounts yet pushing qualified black with 22 years of experience, 4 of which as the General Manager for Mega Projects.
The Whistle-Blower has lived in fear for ?? years. His house has been broken into ?? times. He has been followed and intimidated by strangers. The clear defence of the COO by the Eskom has traumatised him to the point he has been submitted to hospital for ?? days as a result of stress.
Finally, and of most importance is that Eskom is now showing a pattern of developing fake narratives against the employee who had the integrity and courage to raise matters of concern regarding untoward business practices at Eskom based on the submission he made to the State Capture Commission.
The media statement implies that all other allegations made against the Eskom COO i.e. pertaining to Stefanutti Stocks, Black & Veatch, etc were raised by the same employee. This is untrue. As far as SAFTU is aware other allegations were raised by anonymous whistle-blowers.
Allegations were raised in the Sunday Independent article of 15 March 2020. https://www.iol.co.za/sundayindependent/news/calls-for-eskom-to-fire-coo-jan-oberholzer-for-alleged-corruption-44890297
The investigator did not bother to ask the journalist to provide evidence of a picture he says he has showing Jan Oberholzer in his office with the representatives of Stefanutti Stocks.
Some Allegations were raised as far back as March 2019 i.e.
Let it be categorically stated that the only allegations made by the whistle-blower against The Eskom Chief Operating Officer pertained to the alleged victimisation of the whistle-blower by the Eskom Chief Operating Officer for having made a general protected disclosure. The media statement implies that the whistle-blower was responsible for making a whole barrage of accusations.
From a transparency and good governance perspective the Senior Counsel report should ideally have been released to the employee, SAFTU and concerned stakeholders to understand the details and provide context before the media statement was released to the public.
Finally, Eskom attempted to offer the whist-blower compensation to leave Eskom at the CCMA in the presence of the SAFTU General Secretary. This person refused to put his integrity up for sale and refused to entertain the attempted compensation offer to leave Eskom.
It now seems to be common knowledge that Eskom is trumping up new and completely unfounded charges against the whistle-blower with the intention of dismissing him.
This from the very same Eskom who in a previous board statement pertaining to this matter said the following:
“From the onset, it must be stated categorically that Eskom’s executive management and the Board stand firmly against corruption, victimization and abuse of power. Whistle-blowers are a key instrument in the fight against all these excesses, and Eskom endeavours to accord them due protection and encouragement at all material times. We also stand resolutely for transparency, good corporate governance, good ethics and being a fair employer.”
SAFTU rejects the investigation and the exoneration of Jan Oberholzer and demand that an independent investigation be conducted.
SAFTU will approach the Minister of Public Enterprises to intervene and protect the Whistle-Blower from the vengeance and victimisation by Mr Jan Oberholzer and the CEO Mr Andre de Ruyter. Should there be no action we will take this battle to the President who had promised the country and new start from the era where the skilled and experienced officials were routinely chased out of the State Owned Enterprises. This is exactly what has led to the current crisis facing Eskom and all other SOEs.