Brian Dames: Why I stepped down from the Eskom task team

AREP CEO Brian Dames. (Lucky Maibi)
AREP CEO Brian Dames. (Lucky Maibi)

Former Eskom CEO Brian Dames said in order to maintain a high standard of ethics, he stepped down from the presidential task team on Eskom when a perceived conflict of interest arose.

Dames was speaking alongside SA billionaire Patrice Motsepe at a briefing at the African Energy Indaba held in Sandton on Monday.

Motsepe was responding to claims by the Economic Freedom Fighters that the Independent Power Producer (IPP) programme was benefitting President Cyril Ramaphosa's relatives, like himself.

Ramaphosa is married to Motsepe's sister – Tshepo Motsepe. Energy Minister Jeff Radebe is also Motsepe's brother-in-law through the marriage to his sister Bridgette Radebe.

Motsepe told media that the company which he chairs and co-founded – African Renewable Energy and Power (AREP) has avoided doing business with government since its establishment in 2012. AREP has stakes in renewable energy projects which have been successful in IPP bids. But Motsepe clarified that not one of the nine renewable energy IPPs AREP is involved in was acquired from government.

AREP's minority stakes in IPPs were acquired from privately owned companies.

Last year, Dames who is the CEO of AREP asked to be released from the president's task team appointed to advise Eskom, over the perceived conflict of interest, Fin24 previously reported.

On why he took the position on the task team in the first place, Dames said he is a "proud South African" and wanted to help. "We all have to help," he said.

But upon reflecting on ethical issues raised over the perception of conflict of interest, he decided to step down.

"It is better to keep ourselves at the highest standards of ethics," he said.

Motsepe chimed in and said the matter was beyond Dames and was also an AREP issue, as Dames is an employee of AREP.

"I also said, 'We should not be there,'" Motsepe said. He acknowledged Dames had value to add given his years of experience in the electricity sector, but assured that SA would also be fine without him and Dames as there are other people who are probably far more capable than they are to help solve problems.

On the perceived conflict of interest, Motsepe said in retrospect, if he had known his relatives would be closely associated with it then AREP probably would not have become involved given the "chunk of time" he has spent explaining. 

Motsepe also said AREP will not exit its current IPP contracts, saying there are now legal obligations they have to consider. "We did not anticipate that there will be such perceptions about the deals, and we cannot back down now on what we have signed to deliver".

AREP's share in nine current renewable energy projects is R800m. This was 3.9% of the total equity value of the R20.6bn fourth round of the Department of Energy's Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Programme.

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