Hawks in Action
ANC MP Bongani Bongo gets bail after court appearance on bribery charges
The controversial Zuma loyalist faces charges after allegedly trying to bribe a member of the Eskom inquiry while he was state security minister in 2017.
ANC MP Bongani Bongo was arrested by the Hawks’ Serious Corruption Investigation team and charged with corruption on Thursday morning.
The former state security minister made a brief appearance at the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court where he was released on R5,000 bail with the conditions that he does not interfere with witnesses in the case and informs the investigating officer two weeks before any planned overseas travel.
The case was postponed to 31 January 2020 and will be tried at the Western Cape High Court, according to a statement issued by the National Prosecuting Authority.
An additional 10 suspects were arrested by the Hawks on Thursday morning in connection with fraud, corruption and money-laundering, according to a separate statement.
The charges against Bongo relate to attempting to bribe an advocate on the parliamentary commission of inquiry into irregularities at Eskom in October 2017. The inquiry was led by the Parliament’s Public Enterprises committee. While he was state security minister, Bongo approached advocate Ntuthuzelo Vanara, the evidence leader of the inquiry, and allegedly offered him a blank cheque.
It is alleged that Bongo asked Vanara “to take sick leave on the day of the commencement of the commission with a view to derail the proceedings,” according to Hawks spokesperson Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi.
“He [Vanara] consequently alerted his seniors, which culminated in the Hawks investigation,” said Mulaudzi.
The ANC parliamentary caucus issued a brief statement noting the arrest of Bongo and saying they were aware of the “allegations of corruption”.
Bongo was appointed as state security minister by then-president Jacob Zuma on 17 October 2017. During President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Cabinet reshuffle in February 2018, Bongo was removed from the position and replaced by Dipuo Letsatsi-Duba.
ANC Secretary-General Ace Magashule announced that Bongo would be appointed as chair of the Home Affairs Portfolio Committee and he was sworn in as a member of Parliament on 18 June 2019.
Before becoming a minister, Bongo served as head of legal services in Mpumalanga’s Department of Human Settlements.
According to the Mail & Guardian’s Thanduxolo Jika, in a November 2018 article:
“It is alleged that Bongo approved the purchase of three municipal-owned farms by the property developers and that the reward was paid as a deposit towards his purchase of a BMW X5.”
The Home Affairs Committee was approached for comment by Daily Maverick, but media officer Malatswa Molepo said he “was not authorised to speak officially” on their behalf.
When asked by Daily Maverick whether Bongo would still serve as committee chair, Sinetemba Jakavula, spokesperson for ANC Chief Whip Pemmy Majodina, said she would have to “confirm with the chief whip”, who was in a parliamentary caucus meeting at the time.
The charges were laid in 2017 by John Steenhuisen, who was then the Democratic Alliance chief whip, in terms of the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act (12 of 2004).
The 10 suspects who were also arrested on Thursday morning formed part of a series of raids in Eastern Cape, Gauteng, Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal. Their names are not available until their court appearance.
“All 10 suspects will be appearing in the East London Magistrate’s Court tomorrow, 22nd November 2019 on charges of fraud, corruption and money laundering in terms of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act (POCA),” according to a statement released by the Hawks.
“This development is most welcome in our greater fight against corruption to ensure that clean and credible governance prevails,” said the acting national head of the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation, Lieutenant-General Yolisa Matakata.
“We will stop at nothing to ensure that corrupt perpetrators, be it in the private sector or government, are brought to book,” she said.
Attempts to reach Bongo telephonically were not successful on Thursday morning. DM