‘You got caught up in a spaghetti,’ Zuma told ousted Eskom boss
Five years after leaving Eskom, after only five months as its CEO, Tshediso Matona is still in the dark about the precise reason he was ousted.
But Matona, who settled with Eskom out of court in May 2015, is certain about one thing — then-president Jacob Zuma told him he was “caught up in a spaghetti”.
Matona appeared at the state capture inquiry on Monday to give testimony about his controversial exit from Eskom.
He was appointed CEO on October 1 2014 and suspended on March 11 2015.
He was never furnished with the reasons for his suspension.
At the time of his suspension, he confronted the Eskom board led by then chair Zola Tsotsi.
The only reason they could advance was that he was suspended because Eskom had resolved to appoint an inquiry into the problems facing the power utility at the time which needed not to be obstructed by Eskom management.
Matona took exception and turned to the labour court to set aside the suspension.
Though the court ruled in his favour, saying his suspension was procedurally unfair, it referred the matter to the CCMA for arbitration.
That process was postponed after Eskom’s representative, Tsotsi, said he needed to consult with the shareholder minister, who was Lynne Brown.
But before the CCMA process could reconvene, Eskom board members Tsotsi, Venete Klein, as well as businessman Romeo Khumalo, initiated negotiations with Matona in a bid to settle.
Matona told the Zondo commission on Monday that it was at the second of these meetings with the Eskom trio that he was told in no uncertain terms that his returning to Eskom as CEO was out of the question.
At the same time, Matona had requested a meeting with Zuma, seeking political intervention to end the impasse, but the meeting did not happen.
Matona and Eskom agreed on a settlement in May which saw him exit and be replaced by Brian Molefe, who had taken over as acting CEO.
Matona told the inquiry he now believed he was pushed out to make way for Molefe, whose controversial relationship with the Gupta family has already been detailed at the hearings.
A month after Matona left Eskom, he got a call confirming Zuma wanted to see him.
Zuma, who was initially not available when Matona was being pushed out of Eskom, suddenly “showed remorse”.
“What he did say was that I got caught up in a spaghetti — those were his exact words,” Matona said, adding that he did not understand what Zuma had meant.
“He then said to me he would like me to come back to public service.
“I think he wanted to establish where my head space was.
“I left the meeting; we never had the opportunity to speak again.”
Matona was asked whether he believed Zuma’s “remorse” may have indicated that the then-president was involved in his departure from Eskom.
“I can confirm the remorse but cannot say if the remorse is a reflection that he may have had a hand in my suspension,” he said.
Three months after his meeting with Zuma, Matona was appointed the head of secretariat of the National Planning Commission, located in the presidency, where he still works.
The commission is set to hear evidence from Tsotsi.
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