Gupta family 'luck' landed in the lap of former Eskom board member Mark Pamensky

11 February 2021 - 15:07
Mark Pamensky was alleged to have been the Gupta family’s inside man at Eskom. But he has denied the claims. File photo.
Mark Pamensky was alleged to have been the Gupta family’s inside man at Eskom. But he has denied the claims. File photo.
Image: Oakbay Website

Mark Pamensky is one lucky guy, according to his testimony before the commission of inquiry into state capture and its chairperson deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo.

And a great deal of that luck involved the Gupta family.

Pamensky's good fortune began when he attended the infamous Gupta wedding at Sun City in 2013. He said he knew none of the Gupta family members but they sent an invitation to his then employer Blue Label Telecoms.

“I took the invitation and went because I am single, everyone else is married and I went to Sun City,” Pamensky told evidence leader advocate Pule Seleka and Zondo.

“Are you suggesting the Gupta family just sent an invitation to a company they [did not know] anything about?” asked Zondo. Pamensky responded with an emphatic “yes”.

Not only did Pamensky attend the wedding but he also presented the newlyweds with a gift.

Zondo chuckled. “It just sounds strange that they would send an invitation to a company that they never had any interactions with.” 

Since Pamensky went to Sun City and never met any of the Gupta brothers, when exactly did he meet them and how?

His first contact with a Gupta brother was in June 2014, he said, when he “out of the blue” received a call to “have a cup of tea” with Tony Gupta.

“Calls do come out of the blue. I got one and he said come over for a cup of tea and have a discussion,” said Pamensky.

He had no idea where Tony Gupta got his contact details.

“We had the meeting and he explained to me a bit about Sahara [Computers], his operations, where they were going and his mining operations.”

Pamensky added that “nothing came of that meeting” but three months later Atul Gupta invited him to be a non-executive director of the Gupta-owned and JSE-listed Oakbay Resources and Energy (ORE). He accepted the invitation.

At the time, the Guptas were intent on acquiring Optimum Coal Mine (OCM), a company which supplied coal to Eskom, where Pamensky was appointed a board member in December 2014.

The Guptas had nothing to do with him being appointed a board member at Eskom, the commission heard.

During the push by the Guptas to acquire OCM, a transaction largely funded by Eskom, Pamensky claimed that ORE had no business with the transaction.

But e-mails between himself and Atul Gupta suggested the opposite because Pamensky gave advice to him on the matter.

“Where did you get the information you were talking about in the e-mail communication to Atul about 'acquisition of Optimum Coal' where you stated that you were 'happy to get involved in this acquisition'?” asked Seleka.

“I met Mr Atul Gupta on the 22nd [November 2015] and for the first time he said they are looking to buy OCM. After I met him I wrote the e-mail to state what our discussions were and the discussion ended there,” he said.

But why did Pamensky send another e-mail to Atul Gupta on December 10, congratulating him on the successful acquisition of OCM, thanks to a R1.6bn prepayment assistance from Eskom?

This information, too, had reached him by chance through media reports and he had not used his Eskom position to lobby for the Guptas, the commission heard.

“This transaction was publicly announced and, again, I had never been involved in it. There is nothing untoward about me congratulating him based on what I saw in the press.

“I knew nothing, everything I gained was from the press. I have never been involved in this transaction, fortunately enough.”

Pamensky is due to appear again at the Zondo commission on a date yet to be determined.

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