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By Vhahangwele Nemakonde

Digital Deputy News Editor

UCT says Matshela Koko was not invited to lecture students on ethics and professionalism

The university says it has not 'endorsed' Koko, and, in fact, affirms its endorsement of the work done by the Zondo commission.

The University of Cape Town (UCT) has set the record straight on its invitation of former Eskom executive Matshela Koko to participate in a final-year engineering class last Friday.

Koko’s invitation sparked outrage, with Public Interest SA saying his invitation to participate in the discussion “undermines the principles of ethical leadership and academic integrity and jeopardises efforts to combat corruption in South Africa”.

ALSO READ: Tegeta’s Gupta conspicuously left out of Zondo’s recommended prosecution

“As a progressive institution of higher learning, UCT has a responsibility to uphold the highest standards of integrity and ethical conduct. By providing a platform to Mr Koko, the university is complicit in normalising unethical behaviour and undermining our national anti-corruption strategy,” said the non-profit organisation.

“Public Interest SA stands firm in our commitment to fostering a culture of integrity and accountability within our academic institutions. We urge UCT to reconsider its decision to invite Mr Koko and take immediate steps to rectify this error in judgement even if this is done after the fact.”

Koko came into the spotlight in 2022 when Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, in the fourth instalment of the state capture commission’s report, found Koko was an integral part of the Gupta family’s capture of Eskom.

ALSO READ: Matshela Koko and his family allegedly spent R38 million in kickbacks – report

Zondo recommended that he be criminally investigated for a raft of state capture-related crimes, including the ABB deal and the Guptas’ controversial Tegeta deal.

Koko denied the allegations against him and challenged the commission for “ignoring” evidence that could have exonerated him from wrongdoing in relation to the allegations of state capture.

He was arrested on charges of corruption later that year and granted bail of R300 000 by the Middelburg Magistrate’s Court.

READ MORE: Koko smiles as NPA slips up

The case was struck off the roll last year over “unreasonable delays”, with the court saying it was unacceptable for the state to still be asking for postponements in 2023, on a case it had been investigating since 2017.

Koko not ‘endorsed’ by UCT

Responding to the criticism, interim vice-chancellor Emeritus Professor Dayanand Reddy explained that students in a fourth-year course had been assigned the task of writing an opinion piece on Koko’s term as acting Eskom CEO, using all information available in the public domain, as part of a case study on ethics and professionalism.

“Following completion of their assignments, Mr Koko was invited to address the class and participate in a discussion centred on their assignment topic. The lecturer for this course invites around five or six guests each year, often senior individuals in industry or political leaders. Such practice is not uncommon in courses located in one or other of the professional degree programmes,” said Reddy.

ALSO READ: Koko: ‘We should thank the Guptas, there was no load shedding when they ran Eskom’

“In addition, such engagements provide a space for contestation of sometimes varying ideas, and seek to hone students’ ability to reason critically, to act ethically, and to judge professionally.

“Following Mr Koko’s presentation and discussion, students were asked to submit a critical reflection on their own investigation in relation to his contribution. Media reports referring to Mr Koko having been invited to lecture students on ethics and professionalism are therefore incorrect, and highly misleading.

“Mr Koko has not been ‘endorsed’ by the department concerned, much less by the university. It is appropriate also, in light of references in media reports to the Zondo Commission, to affirm and confirm UCT’s endorsement of the work done by the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture, as well as its findings.”

ALSO READ: ‘Let the NPA bring it on’: Koko says Zondo is setting up NPA for failure

Public Interest SA has, however, called on the university to review its policies regarding guest lecturers and ensure that “future invitations are extended to individuals who exemplify the values of integrity, transparency and ethical leadership”.

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