Persistent rumours that chief executive Brian Dames was leaving Eskom proved true on Thursday when he said that he had, in fact, resigned from the power utility in February this year.
Dames was speaking to the Mail & Guardian shortly after the formal announcement of his resignation by Eskom board chairperson Zola Tsotsi at the presentation of Eskom’s interim financial results.
In the period since making his decision, Dames said, he has been "working with the board to ensure that we have a smooth transition".
He denied speculation that he had become frustrated by alleged ongoing interference in operational issues by Public Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba. Dames said he decided to leave for "personal reasons", seeking to spend more time with his family.
"I have got a great minister – he has been very supportive and responsive to any issues," Dames said.
Gigaba’s spokesperson, Mayihlome Tshwete, confirmed that Gigaba has long been aware of Dames’s decision.
"There have been discussions between the minister, the board and Brian for some time now and the minister has been trying to find the least disruptive way of going about managing this," Tshwete said.
The announcement comes at a tough time for the utility. It is battling to keep the lights on and to complete the construction of its new power stations, Medupi and Kusile. Medupi, in particular, has faced ongoing battles with the major contractors, Hitachi and Alstom, delaying the project until the second half of 2014.
EE Publishers reported on Wednesday that Eskom wants to terminate the contract for Medupi’s boiler protection software with French company Alstom. The report said that Eskom is seeking to bring a second contractor, believed to be Siemens, on board.
Dan Marokane, group executive for group capital at the utility, said at the results presentation that Eskom has taken the "extraordinary step" to work alongside Alstom and another control and instrumentation contractor. This is to mitigate the risk of further delaying the commissioning of Medupi’s first unit and to ensure that, if it becomes appropriate to "exercise contractual clauses in terms of remedying nonperformance, [Eskom] can do so".
The move has raised further concerns that Medupi could be delayed for even longer.
Critics have blamed Eskom’s leadership for continued difficulties in implementing the construction programme.
The announcement comes just over a year after the resignation of Eskom’s former financial director, Paul O’Flaherty. He left in July. Dames will make his exit in March next year.
But Dames denied that Eskom’s difficulties played a part in his decision to leave. He said he has confidence in Eskom’s project teams at Medupi and their ability to deliver.