Guptas linked to statement by Ben Ngubane

Ben Ngubane
Picture: Esa Alexander

Associates and business partners of the Gupta family appear to have drafted the first public statement issued by Ben Ngubane when he became acting chairman of Eskom two years ago.

Even more damning was that Ngubane was announcing the departure of his predecessor, Zola Tsotsi, who had been forced to resign by the utility’s board in the wake of his handling of the suspension of Eskom’s four senior executives in March 2015.

On March 31, Nazeem Howa, chief executive of Gupta-owned Oakbay Resources at the time, sent an e-mail to Salim Essa, chairman of consultancy Trillian Capital, attaching a statement attributed to Ngubane.

“An amended version for your approval,” Howa wrote.

He attached a statement titled “Statement by Dr Ben Ngubane, chairperson of Eskom, on behalf of the board”.

This may be the first batch of concrete evidence showing the extent of the controversial family’s irregular involvement in the running and alleged capture of state institutions.

Approached for comment last night, Eskom said: “It is premature to respond in any specific way to the issues raised as these fall within the purview of the State of Capture report’s remedial action.

“Anything and/or speculation, in the intervening period, will result in more allegations and grievous damage to individuals and entities.”

The former public protector fingered members of the Gupta family and their associates for inappropriate dealings with the directors of Eskom and logistics company Transnet in an investigation into the family’s alleged role in state capture.

Essa did not return calls and text messages.

In a separate e-mail, former Eskom board member Mark Pamensky, who was also a director of Oakbay Resources, appears to be offering advice to Atul and Varun Gupta on a deal in which Oakbay was negotiating to buy coal miner Optimum from Glencore.

“As I’m at the tail end of the main acquisition of Optimal Coal, please ensure that a condition precedent is that the R2-billion claim from Eskom is withdrawn or it becomes the seller’s problem,” Pamensky wrote on November 22 2015.

The e-mail came from his private e-mail address, and was then shared among members of the Oakbay group.

“I’m happy to get involved to assist with this acquisition and monthly monitoring/ analysing of all investments.”

Yesterday, Pamensky said he would need 24 hours to provide a detailed comment.

But he stated he had always declared all his interests to the Eskom board.

He said he had also recused himself from discussions involving the Oakbay group.

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