Former Eskom chief executive Matshela Koko, awarded the contract to build Zimbabwe’s 100 MW Gwanda Solar Project, has been arrested with his wife and stepdaughter on corruption allegations.
South Africa’s NPA’s Investigating Directorate arrested Matshela Koko, his wife Mosima and his stepdaughter Koketso Choma.
According to News24, the charges relate to a massive multibillion-rand contract that Eskom and the Swiss engineering firm Asea Brown Boveri (ABB) signed in 2015. Choma was a stockholder in Impulse International, a local business ABB subcontracted. She earned R30 million as a result of the transaction, some of which went to Mosima Koko.
At the time, Koko worked as a senior executive at Eskom.
Ironically, Koko’s company Matshela Energy Limited took over the 100MW Gwanda Solar Power Project after controversial businessman Wicknell Chivayo failed to deliver on the US$173 million contract.
In a statement announcing the deal, Matshela Energy MD Koko said delivering a 100MW solar power plant with 40MWh of battery storage will be “one of the largest renewable energy and storage [projects] in Zimbabwe and the region”.
The Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority (Zera) granted Matshela Energy a generation licence in 2019 to construct, own, operate and maintain the plant at Gwanda in Matabeleland south.
“We have come a long way since we started with this project. We shall not falter. The people of Gwanda have been good to us, and we owe it to them to succeed,” said Koko.
The power firm said it is working towards financial closure under Zera’s stipulated timelines.
Wicknell Chivayo’s company, Intratek Zimbabwe, was initially awarded the US$173 million tender by the Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC) for the construction of the Gwanda Solar Power Project in 2015.
But meaningful progress was yet to be made on the project almost three years later, even though Chivayo had received an advance of US$5 million from Zesa in irregular circumstances.
This prompted the ZPC in 2018, to give Chivayo an ultimatum. The power utility gave Intratek two weeks to complete pre-commencement works at the site in Gwanda, as well as provide a bank guarantee.
If Chivayo and Intratek failed to do so, ZPC said it would cancel the tender and sue to recover over US$5 million it had already paid to the company.
After getting the ultimatum, Chivayo rushed to the High Court, arguing that the contract was still valid and that he had not been responsible for the lack of progress in building the solar project.
High Court judge Justice Tawanda Chitapi ruled in Chivayo’s favour and declared that the contract was valid and binding. He ruled that the party which failed to work with the other “shall be deemed to have repudiated the contract and liable to damages at the instance of the innocent party.”
However, ZPC was not happy with the decision and filed an appeal at the Supreme Court.
Supreme Court judges Justice Francis Bere, Justice Elizabeth Gwaunza and Justice Chinembiri Bhunu overturned Justice Chitapi’s ruling. The Supreme Court ruled that Justice Chitapi should have thrown out Wicknell’s case because his lawyers had used the wrong procedure