Mineral resources and energy minister Gwede Mantashe in Parliament. File photo: GCIS.

JOHANNESBURG - Mineral resources and energy minister Gwede Mantashe must explain in parliament why Karen Breytenbach was removed as head of South Africa’s independent power producers' office overseeing the expansion of privately-owned renewable energy projects, the opposition Democratic Alliance party said on Tuesday.

Local media reported on Monday that the well-regarded Breytenbach had been asked to vacate her job nine months before her contract expires, without being given a reason.

In a statement on Tuesday, DA shadow minister of mineral resources and energy Kevin Mileham said the move was shocking as Breytenbach had won support from prominent figures in the energy industry for a programme seen as one of the world’s best in attracting rapid investment in solar and wind power.

He said he had written to Mantashe asking for clarity.

"Her tenure has been characterised by the investment of R209 billion in the successful roll out of 112 renewable energy projects. She achieved these feats without succumbing to corruption or political pressure," Mileham said.

"Breytenbach’s removal is indicative that minister Mantashe and his team are not in favour of a renewable energy independent power producer procurement programme (REIPPP) which alleviates fiscal pressure. It is for this reason that the minister must provide parliament with some clarity."

Mileham said South Africa’s energy security was in a precarious position, requiring "sober thinking and foresight".

"The political games of past years cannot be played if we are going to ensure energy security, build the economy and create jobs," he said.

African News Agency (ANA)