Gupta deployed Pamensky resigns, second Eskom exec – Zuma’s time running out?

Mark Pamensky
Mark Pamensky

The glare of the corruption-fuelled public spotlight is now squarely on Eskom as a second Gupta-linked leader of the power utility resigned yesterday. There’s now an increasing likelihood of a bombshell witness list at the impending judicial commission of enquiry into ‘State Capture’. President Zuma is doing all in his power to legally stall it, saying he, and not the Chief Justice, is constitutionally empowered to appoint its head. [Former public protector Thuli Madonsela recommended that the Chief Justice do the appointing for an obvious reason]. But back to the latest corporate scrambling. Neither “ghost shebeen” regular, Eskom CEO Brian Molefe, who fell on his sword last week, nor scrambler-of-the-moment, Mark Pamensky, [appointed to the Eskom board three months after joining the board of Gupta-owned Oakbay Resources], have [yet] said they will “bare all”. But it’s fast turning into a scramble of every man for himself as the collective weight of Madonsela’s report becomes intolerable to all but the most thick-skinned and arrogant. Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown’s initial radical replacement of all but one member of the Eskom board fits neatly into the Gupta State Capture theory. President Zuma’s latest move – to ask the top three advocates at the Directorate of Public Prosecutions to say why he shouldn’t suspend them for the spurious, bumbling prosecution of Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan is breathtakingly cynical. But as always happens, the truth will eventually out. Adding gunpowder to a possible bombshell judicial enquiry witness list speaks of a president desperately clinging to power. – Chris Bateman

by Paul Burkhardt

(Bloomberg) — Mark Pamensky, who is a director of a company owned by South Africa’s Gupta family that has ties with President Jacob Zuma’s son, resigned as a board member at state-owned Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd., less than a week after the utility’s chief executive officer’s quit.

An electricity pylon stands beyond an Eskom sign at the entrance to the Grootvlei power station, operated by Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd., in Grootvlei, South Africa, on Monday, Nov. 3, 2014. Eskom said South Africa's power supply remains strained as it investigates what caused a silo storing coal to collapse, forcing the state-owned utility to cut electricity to customers. Photographer: Dean Hutton/Bloomberg
An electricity pylon stands beyond an Eskom sign at the entrance to the Grootvlei power station, operated by Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd., in Grootvlei, South Africa. Photographer: Dean Hutton/Bloomberg

Recommendations will be made to the cabinet “soon” on how the power company’s board will be strengthened, Public Enterprise Minister Lynne Brown said in an e-mailed statement announcing the resignation on Tuesday. Pamensky has been a non-executive director at Eskom since December 2014.

Both Pamensky and CEO Brian Molefe were subpoenaed to answer to the nation’s Public Protector over an anti-graft investigation into the influence the Gupta family — who are friends with Zuma — have over government appointments and contracts. The family and Zuma deny any wrongdoing. Molefe on Friday said he will leave Eskom “in the interests of good corporate governance” and that his name will be cleared.

Members of Eskom’s board failed to declare their close business and personal relationships with the Gupta family, according to a report released Nov. 2 by former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela. It appears that Eskom last year forced Glencore Plc into selling its Optimum mine to Tegeta Exploration & Resources Ltd., then part-owned by the Guptas and Zuma’s son, said Madonsela. She ordered the establishment of a judicial commission of inquiry to investigate whether there had been any wrongdoing.

Pamensky is still the lead independent non-executive director at Oakbay Resources and Energy Ltd., but is no longer a director at Shiva Uranium (Pty) Ltd., according to a company spokesman. Both companies are owned by the Guptas.

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Solidarity welcomes Pamensky’s resignation

Trade union Solidarity today welcomed the resignation of Eskom bigwig Mark Pamensky who is also a board member of the controversial Gupta family’s company Oakbay. Pamensky’s resignation followed barely a week after the resignation of Eskom’s former CEO Brian Molefe, who had also been incriminated in the State Capture Report.

According to Deon Reyneke, Deputy General Secretary of the Energy Industry in Solidarity, Pamensky’s resignation so soon after that of Molefe is highly suspicious. Both Pamensky and Molefe had been subpoenaed by the former Public Protector, Thuli Mandosela, to testify during her investigation into the Gupta’s influence. “Molofe did the honourable thing by resigning but the commission of inquiry should now run its course in its investigation into the Tegeta coal agreement. However, Pamensky’s resignation so soon after that of Molefe is highly suspicious, especially considering his ties with the Gupta family,” Reyneke said.

According to Reyneke, another Eskom bigwig should also tender his resignation just like Molefe and Pamensky. “Matshela Koko who, according to several sources, is currently a candidate to be Molefe’s successor, has been plunged into controversy repeatedly, including with regard to tender fraud and suspension pending an internal investigation,” Reyneke said.

“What the national energy provider now needs is leadership that will act strongly and ethically and in the best interests of South Africa,” Reyneke warned.

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