Bongani Bongo wants 'legal basis' before he'll step aside as MP and NEC member

Andisiwe Makinana Political correspondent
Bongani Bongo
Bongani Bongo
Image: Elmond Jiyane

ANC MP Bongani Bongo has made a U-turn, saying he is not stepping aside as chair of parliament’s portfolio committee on home affairs, nor from the ANC national executive committee.

This was despite Bongo having indicated earlier in the week that he would be stepping back from both roles following pressure from his party leaders because he is  due to go on trial next year on corruption charges.

Bongo told the Sunday Times on Friday that he has written to his party bosses asking them to explain the legal basis for asking him to stay away though no court has found him guilty of anything at this stage.

He said it was only ill health that had kept from his parliamentary duties this week.

“I am not against stepping aside ... stepping aside must have clear terms of reference because it is not based on the constitution of the ANC and the constitution of the country,” he said on Friday.

“The person who says I must step aside must write to me and say what this means so that when I go to court, I produce that thing.”

The controversial MP said written clarity from the ANC would be useful in the event the court asked him if he had stepped aside as “a self-conviction” or because his conscience told him it was the right thing to do.

“I have to say, 'no, my organisation that I represent wrote this to me',” he said.

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He said news reports that he had stepped aside had been followed by questions in some quarters asking why he was being paid for sitting at home.

“That question must be asked to the people who will write me that letter because I won’t be able to answer the question of why I sit at home while getting money.”

“I am also waiting for them to write me something that explains the position of the law on this aspect. The constitution is clear there is a presumption of innocence. What is the justification because the law is clear?”

“I am not refusing to do it. Once certain things are properly clarified, then I will do it,” he said.

When Bongo did not attend Tuesday’s meeting of the home affairs committee, the committee’s secretary told MPs that he was on leave. This was the day after President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the ANC’s NEC had decided that ANC members who are facing charges of corruption or other serious crimes should immediately step aside from all leadership positions in the party, legislatures or other government structures pending the finalisation of their cases.

“I have sores all around my mouth. I went to a doctor who booked me off for three days, but I took only one day of leave this week,” Bongo said when asked about his absence from his parliamentary duties.

“The chief whip (Pemmy Majodina) knows I put in leave for one day because the committee was going to sit for one day. I sent them a leave form for one day and a doctor’s note,” he said.

Bongo was charged with corruption earlier this year following allegations by former parliamentary legal adviser Ntuthuzelo Vanara that the MPs offered him a bribe in October 2017 in exchange for collapsing a parliamentary inquiry into irregularities at Eskom.

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