Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo was surprised on Thursday when a former Eskom board member admitted attending the multi-million rand controversial Gupta wedding but claimed not to have been personally invited.
Chartered accountant Mark Pamensky, who served on Eskom’s board between December 2014 and November 2016, told the commission of inquiry into state capture Blue Label Telecoms received an invitation to the wedding on May 1, 2013, at Sun City in the North West.
However, Pamensky said he was not personally invited to the nuptials but the invitation was sent to Blue Label Telecoms, where he was chief operations officer.
Justice Zondo appeared puzzled by Pamensky’s response after having testified he only got to know the fugitive Gupta family over a year after the wedding. The wedding was dogged with controversy after Indian guests irregularly landed at the national key point, the Waterkloof Air Force Base in Tshwane.
”It just sounds strange they would send an invitation to a company they had not had any interaction with,” the country’s second most senior judge said.
But Pamensky insisted although he went to the Gupta wedding in 2013 the invitation was sent to Blue Label Telecoms.
He said he volunteered to go “simple as that, there was nothing to it”.
According to Pamensky, after Blue Label Telecoms was invited he attended as he was the only one who was single and free among the company’s executives at the time.
”I never met the Guptas at the wedding,” he maintained.
Pamensky did admit he finally got to know Tony Gupta after he invited him to a meeting in June 2014.
He described the meeting as very cordial and Tony Gupta explained Sahara Computers and he did the same about Blue Label Telecoms.
Pamensky told the commission he never asked Tony Gupta where he got his number from.
”They (the Guptas) were not as toxic as they are now,” he explained.
Pamensky said he was asked by Atul Gupta to sit on the board of Oakbay Resources and Energy prior to its listing on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange.
He also admitted knowing another former Eskom board member Viroshni Naidoo and said that her Gupta-linked businessman husband Kuben Moodley has been his friend since 2001.
Justice Zondo has asked Pamensky to deal with claims that some Eskom board members were taking instructions from outside the power utility, a task he accepted.
”It looks like they may have been people from outside who were influencing what the board was doing and what some officials within the board were doing,” he said.
Justice Zondo also wants Pamensky to point out the Melrose Arch, Johannesburg, premises of reclusive Gupta lieutenant Salim Essa.
Pamensky’s advocate Jonathan Blou told Zondo he would engage with the commission’s investigators directly and evidence leader Pule Seleka.
”I don’t believe it’s the sort of matter that has to be on the record given the type of investigation that you wish to clarify in that regard. It’s probably best to simply supply it. We will give those details directly to the investigators because it might be they want to use it for other purposes before it becomes public,” said Blou, to which Justice Zondo agreed.