Patrice Motsepe. Picture: Martin Rhodes
Patrice Motsepe. Picture: Martin Rhodes

Business magnate Patrice Motsepe on Monday attempted to  quell perceptions of favouritism and improper conduct because of his ties to the minister of energy and the president.

The billionaire also said he did not support the privatisation of Eskom and would not be part of any sale or disposal of assets at the utility.

Chief executive of Motsepe’s private energy firm African Rainbow Energy and Power (AREP), Brian Dames, said the company had called a media briefing on Monday to discuss “allegations and suspicions” of improper plans and strategies implicating the company.

This followed multiple reports that Motsepe would contend for assets that might be sold in the process of unbundling Eskom into three separate business units, as announced earlier this month.

Both the minister of energy Jeff Radebe and President Cyril Ramaphosa are Motsepe’s brothers-in-law. 

Motsepe said neither he nor any company he is associated with would be involved in any Eskom asset sale, including the purchase of its housing finance division which AREP was reportedly mulling.

“It’s absolutely false,” Motsepe said.

Motsepe and Dames also denied the company had received any preferential treatment in acquiring stakes in nine green power projects under its renewable energy independent power producers procurement programme. 

“We didn’t acquire any one of the projects we are involved in from government, we bought them from private sector,” said Motsepe, who added that the company had committed R400m of its own money. Those assets were acquired before Radebe was appointed to the energy ministry.

He put much of the aspersions around his business dealings down to electioneering but conceded “the perceived conflict is a fundamental problem”.

Asked why he wanted to set the record straight now, Motsepe said he fully understood the fear and suspicion, but the misrepresentations and lies have grown louder and it is important for AREP to now lay down the facts as it sees them.

“Some of the allegations, I can’t even respond to them, they are excessively ridiculous.”

Motsepe, however, said he had called the briefing because it was critically important to deal with perceptions, which were sometimes seen as more important than fact.

“Even if I didn’t have these relatives in government, I have a fundamental duty and obligation to be not just transparent, but ethical and accountable,” he said.

Motsepe said AREP will not exit the renewable power projects as it had legal obligations toward them.