Bongo upbeat as prosecution nears end of its 'corruption' witness list

Aron Hyman Reporter
ANC MP and former state security minister Bongani Bongo leaves the high court in Cape Town during his corruption trial on February 19 2021.
ANC MP and former state security minister Bongani Bongo leaves the high court in Cape Town during his corruption trial on February 19 2021.
Image: Esa Alexander

With the prosecution case against accused former state security minister Bongani Bongo nearing its end on Friday, he and his legal team appeared confident the state would not be able to prove its corruption charge against them.

On Monday the state is expected to call its last witness and judge president John Hlophe has repeatedly expressed his eagerness to conclude the trial.

Bongo made a gleeful sound after his senior counsel, Michael Hellens, concluded his cross-examination of a state witness on Friday.

Modibedi Phindela, secretary to the National Council of Provinces (NCOP), had corroborated a small but — in the defence's narrative — significant aspect of its argument.

This was that advocate Ntuthuzelo Vanara, the evidence leader in a parliamentary inquiry into Eskom and other state-owned enterprises — and the man who accused Bongo of offering him a bribe to halt the inquiry — knew Bongo was an advocate when he approached him on the day the alleged bribe was offered in October 2017.

Ntuthuzelo Vanara has accused former state security minister Bongani Bongo of offering him a bribe to stop or delay parliament’s inquiry into Eskom in October 2017.
Ntuthuzelo Vanara has accused former state security minister Bongani Bongo of offering him a bribe to stop or delay parliament’s inquiry into Eskom in October 2017.
Image: Facebook

This small detail, Bongo asserts, is one of several facts the state's witnesses have conspired to omit as part of a narrative they have allegedly concocted to serve a political campaign against him led by “a certain faction in the governing party”.

Phindela strayed from answering some of Hellens' questions, such as why he did not report the alleged corrupt act to the police as prescribed by the Corruption and Corrupt Activities Act.

Vanara testified that he immediately made contact with Phindela after his October 10 meeting with Bongo and told him he wanted to see him.

Phindela told the court Vanara arrived in Stellenbosch to meet him and another state witness, secretary to the National Assembly Masibulele Xaso, and told them Bongo had offered him a bribe if he “collapsed” the Eskom inquiry.

His version of events was devoid of the detail testified to by Xaso and Vanara.

Phindela stuck to his response that he, as Vanara's superior, decided the incident should be reported to the secretary to parliament, Penelope Tyawa, because “institutionally that is how we report matters”.

Asked whether there was a rule which stated that matters should be reported internally and not to the police, he repeated his statement.

He also claimed that Vanara referred to Bongo as advocate, a claim Vanara and Xaso denied but which the defence said proved Bongo's claims of a conspiracy.

Bongo claims that his meeting with Vanara was “lawyer to lawyer” and concerned the efficacy of running both the Eskom inquiry and the Zondo commission when they concerned the same topics.

Vanara denied knowing Bongo was an advocate. He said the MP told him “the people of Eskom” were concerned they would be arrested if evidence was led during the inquiry.

Vanara claimed Bongo asked him “to name a price” in exchange for his help and that “the people of Eskom” would pay the money.

Tyawa, the state's fifth witness, confirmed Vanara's statement that he had not referred to Bongo as “advocate” but as “honourable”.

She also denied Bongo's claims that she, Vanara, Phindela and Xaso reported the incident in a political environment and for a political motive.

ANC and Cosas members demonstrate outside the Cape Town high court in support of Bongani Bongo on February 19 2021.
ANC and Cosas members demonstrate outside the Cape Town high court in support of Bongani Bongo on February 19 2021.
Image: Esa Alexander

Under the Financial Management of Parliament Act, she said, it was her administrative duty to report the matter to the executive authority, which included the chair of the NCOP, the chair of the National Assembly and the auditor-general.

She said she asked Vanara to put the complaint in writing and report it to her so that she could fulfil this duty.

Outside court, ANC and Congress of SA Students (Cosas) members sang and danced wearing shirts with the words, “Hands off comrade Jacob Zuma” and “Hands off comrade Ace Magashule”.

The case was postponed until Monday and is expected to continue for the whole week.

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