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Matona’s suspension challenge struck from roll

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Eskom CEO Tshediso Matona’s challenge to his suspension was struck from the roll at the Labour Court in Johannesburg on Friday.

“The application is struck from the roll,” Judge Benita Whitcher said.

He was suspended on March 11 after refusing to step aside as chief executive so the board could hold an inquiry into the crisis at the power utility.

On March 12, chairman Zola Tsotsi announced that Matona, finance director Tsholofelo Molefe, group capital executive Dan Morokane, and commercial and technology executive Matshela Koko had agreed to step aside to allow for the inquiry.

The court heard that Matona had been suspended the night before.

Matona applied to the court for an urgent interdict on March 20, asking that his suspension be lifted. He also filed a complaint with the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA). He was in court when the matter was heard on Thursday, but not present for the reading of the order.

Giving reasons for her order, Whitcher said she had had to weigh the prejudice that each party said they might suffer.

She stressed several times that her order was in no way an indication of whether Matona was guilty of anything or not.

She noted the suspension came as a surprise to Matona, who started in his position in October 2014. He had been in the job for less than six months and said he had not been told what he had done wrong, or been given the right to defend himself.

Eskom submitted that it had resolved to conduct an independent inquiry because there may have been wrongdoing by Matona and the executive committee (exco).

A Cabinet “war room” had been established for Eskom and, said Whitcher, Eskom believed Matona and the exco had provided unreliable information on the strategy to fix the crisis, and inconsistent financial information.

She found Eskom had not been honest with Matona over the suspension, but that he must have done something which gave them reason to suspect misconduct.

But he was not given information to make a meaningful representation.

There was evidence that the suspension was procedurally and substantively unfair.

The discussion he had on March 11 was about the need for an inquiry, rather than the possibility of misconduct and suspension, said Whitcher.

“He was asked to leave the boardroom. Fifteen minutes later he was handed a letter containing his notice of suspension,” she said.

Matona had wanted the suspension lifted urgently, saying it would affect his dignity and cause irreparable harm to Eskom’s operations and to the economy.

But Whitcher said everybody knew about the problems at Eskom. The damage to his reputation could be dealt with at the inquiry and the CCMA.

She said he did not prove it would take long for the CCMA case to be handled, he was still being paid, and the CCMA had asked if the case should be dealt with quickly.

There was no order as to costs. SAPA

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