Drones, fears & photos: former Eskom executive confused by spate of suspensions

Former Eskom executive Abram Masango testifies at the state capture commission on Tuesday.
Image: Screengrab

Former Eskom executive Abram Masango has detailed how he was followed, photographed and even had a drone twice hover over his house after testifying about alleged wrongdoing at the power utility.

He also outlined the apparent involvement of Gupta ally, businessman Salim Essa, in the suspension of four Eskom executives in March 2015.

Masango resigned as group executive for capital at Eskom in November 2018, just hours after he was suspended for a second time in just more than a year. He was cleared the first time about.

Masango has also been criminally charged in relation to a R745m fraud case involving alleged wrongdoing over the Kusile power station construction project. He, alongside three others, was granted bail of R300,000 in December 2019.

Masango was the former project manager at Kusile in the mid-2010s.

Testifying before the state capture commission on Tuesday afternoon, Masango said that, on March 10 2015, he was called to a meeting by former Eskom CEO Matshela Koko at Melrose Arch in Johannesburg. He said he entered a small room, had his cellphone taken away and was introduced to Gupta man Salim Essa.

At the time, he said, he didn’t know who Essa was. Essa had no role at Eskom.

According to Masango, Koko told him that four executives would be suspended the following day: Koko himself, former CEO Tshediso Matona, finance director Tsholofelo Molefe and executive for group capital Dan Marokane.

“He went on to say that, after the suspension, the other three will not come back but he will come back — he used the word ‘return’.

“I was very confused … I did ask the question, ‘Why four executives?’ I went further, saying that is going to cause chaos for Eskom. It cannot be done. What are the reasons. I did not believe it.

“He never gave me the reason. He carried on the discussion. He then addressed Essa and said, ‘Abram Masango has the capacity to act as group CEO.’ I got more confused [about] what is going on.”

He said during later testimony that this was a “funny meeting which shocked me”.

“At the time I was a bit scared, because I couldn’t understand what was going on,” he said.

The next morning, March 11, he was asked to attend a meeting with Eskom board chairman Zola Tsotsi at the headquarters, Megawatt Park.

He said he and some other Eskom officials were led from Tsotsi’s office to the boardroom, where some board members were present. What Koko said the day before would ultimately transpire.

“Mr Tsotsi never wasted time. He said there are four executives that are going to be suspended. He mentioned them by name. He mentioned two things about why they are going to be suspended. One regarding the enquiry they are going to do and they don’t want the officials present, and, two, the enquiry must cover the issue of performance. He’s therefore requesting us to assist them and act in the positions of the executives who are going to be suspended. He asked me to act in group capital, in Dan’s [Marokane’s] position. We all agreed we would act,” said Masango.

He told the commission that he had a meeting with Marokane, with whom he had a good relationship. Marokane told him it was “politics” behind the suspensions, to which Masango said that this would “make it difficult for me to act in your position” and that he should rather turn down the request to take up the post.

“Dan says to  me, ‘No, Abram, don’t do that.’”

He said that after meeting  Marokane he received a phone call from Koko, saying that he knew he was “talking” about what was happening.

“Even when he was saying ‘you are talking’, I was always wondering what was happening. I suspected two things, whether a phone bugger or following. I had that suspicion but I can’t confirm that,” he said.

Masango testified that he had been threatened after testifying in February 2018 about the events at a parliamentary portfolio committee concerning the goings on.

“I don’t know by who, but from time to time there were people that were following me and sometimes when I was sitting in a restaurant, people would come in and take photos. Then I started to be careful, and wherever I went, I decided not to go alone,” he said.

Masango said he went to a police station to report an incident at his home.

“I went to the police station because there was a drone above my house. It started worrying me, and I went to the police station and reported it,” he said. However, a case wasn’t opened.

“As we speak, I still feel very unsafe. If I speak about the issue of the drone, it happened twice. At some stage I called the provincial commissioner, Mr Zuma [Mpumalanga police commissioner Mondli Zuma], and told him I have this situation. Until today, I’m still very observant about what is happening about me,” he said.

by Matthew Savides