Bongani Bongo’s kickbacks for land payment case postponed
Just weeks after his acquittal in another corruption case, former state security minister Bongani Bongo can breathe more easily for another seven months following the postponement of his case involving alleged land fraud.
Former state security minister Bongani Bongo’s run of luck with the courts continues – after a case in which he is charged with corruption was postponed on Tuesday to January 2022.
In a statement explaining the postponement, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) said that it was the desire of prosecutors to push ahead with the trial in August this year. The delay was sanctioned by the Nelspruit Magistrates’ Court, however, due to “the unavailability of some of the defence legal team members”.
The case is a shocking illustration of the potential for corruption around the government’s “willing buyer, willing seller” land reform process.
The events took place while Bongo was head of legal services for the Mpumalanga Department of Human Settlements, and the figure at their heart is attorney Blessing Singwane.
Singwane and his co-accused conspired to defraud the provincial Department of Human Settlements over the sale of two farms, the NPA charges. In the case of the farm Naupoort, owned by Johan van Tonder, the department was informed that the purchase price for the farm was R37.5-million – while the actual asking price was R16.5-million.
That provided a sweet “secret commission”, in the NPA’s words, of R22.5-million to be distributed among the co-conspirators.
In the other instance, the department was told that a portion of Rietspruit farm was on sale for R10.5-million, when the farm was valued at only R1.6-million.
Bongo’s ex-wife, Sandile Nkosi, is accused of having received R1-million as part of the attempt to convince Bongo to recommend Singwane’s law firm, Singwane & Partners, as service providers to the department for the sales of the farms.
Bongo is accused of having further personally benefited to the tune of a BMW X5 in order to exert pressure on department officials to effect payments to Singwane & Partners.
The case sees 12 people charged collectively with 69 counts of corruption, fraud, theft, money laundering and contravention of the Public Finance Management Act in a charge sheet running to more than 70 pages.
Interviewed after his Tuesday court appearance, Bongo told eNCA the case amounted to an “abuse of state institutions”.
Bongo said he would be applying for the case to be struck off the roll as “there appears to be no case against anyone who is involved”.
This is Bongo’s second court appearance in a matter of months. In February, the ANC MP was acquitted on another corruption charge: on that occasion, allegedly attempting to give a bribe rather than receive it. Bongo had been accused of trying to bribe a witness to collapse Parliament’s inquiry into wrongdoing at Eskom.
Judge John Hlophe’s acquittal of Bongo caused an outcry from legal scholars and the NPA has indicated it intends to appeal against the decision. Hlophe himself is on the ropes after the Judicial Conduct Tribunal determined he should be impeached for gross misconduct.
The acquittal of Bongo by Judge Hlophe came two months before a recording was released of ANC Deputy Secretary-General Jessie Duarte telling the party’s top six that for the ANC to win cases, its members had to appear before Judge Hlophe in the Western Cape High Court.
But although Bongo may be dodging corruption convictions with success, his days as an ANC representative could be numbered. In accordance with the party’s step-aside resolution, Bongo must relinquish his position as MP and chair of the home affairs committee because he is facing criminal charges.
Bongo has shown defiance in the face of the rule, stating that he has no intention of stepping down because he is confident that the Mpumalanga courts will acquit him. He has indicated that he intends to appeal the matter with the ANC’s highest body, the National Executive Committee. DM