South Africa


Hlophe refuses State appeal against Bongo corruption acquittal, but NPA may fight on

Hlophe refuses State appeal against Bongo corruption acquittal, but NPA may fight on
ANC MP Bongani Bongo (Photo: Elmond Jiyane / GCIS)

Former State Security Minister Bongani Bongo is a step closer to returning to office after Western Cape High Court Judge President John Hlophe dismissed the State’s request for leave to appeal against a prior ruling by Hlophe — but the NPA is considering petitioning the Supreme Court of Appeal.

The matter stems from the acquittal of former State Security Minister Bongani Bongo in February 2021 on a charge of corruption. Judge John Hlophe presided in that case.

Bongo had allegedly offered a bribe to advocate Nthuthuzelo John Vanara, the evidence leader of Parliament’s 2017 Eskom Inquiry.

Read more in Daily Maverick: “Bongani Bongo arrest: first shots in the fight against corrupt public officials

The State wanted to take Hlophe’s acquittal of Bongo to the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA). The matter was heard on Monday, before Judge Hlophe, in the Western Cape High Court. 

“To the State, it seems that a legal issue was taken of all evidence before the court. The state is not contending the judgment in this matter, but rather the law which we contend the judge applied wrongly,” said advocate Thersia du Toit-Smith for the State.

But Mike Hellens, appearing for Bongo, told the court the State was trying to send the whole record to the Supreme Court of Appeal and dress up finding of facts as findings of law, and asking the SCA to reassess the merits of the matter. This was not a legal possibility, he said.

The evidence of advocate Vanara, who was a State witness in the corruption trial, is central to the State’s case for an appeal. Hlophe’s acquittal judgment indicated that Vanara, in his evidence-in-chief on meeting Bongo at his Parliament office on 10 October 2017, said:

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“He told me he was requested by the acting Chairperson of the Board to ask me for assistance… He said that Eskom people were worried about incriminating evidence against them and there would be police officials waiting to arrest him…”

In his acquittal ruling, Hlophe found that “Vanara’s evidence is not credible in some respects. He is a single witness. Therefore his evidence must be clear and satisfactory in all material respects”.

After hearing the lawyers from both sides on Monday, and without providing reasons, Hlophe said the application for leave to appeal was dismissed.

Bongo told reporters: “I’ve always maintained that there is no case… It was just a waste of the State’s resources and abuse of State institutions. I’m still a Member of Parliament. I am on a step-aside because of this frivolous nonsense. But I’m happy to know that it has come to an end.”

Bongo is also facing a corruption case in Mpumalanga, which he said is a far worse matter, but “we will just squash it in November”.

Read more in Daily Maverick: “ANC’s Bongani Bongo to finally face the music as trial date set for spate of fraud and corruption charges

Western Cape NPA spokesperson Eric Ntabazalila said: “The Judge President of the Western Cape High Court, in dismissing our application, did not hand down a judgment or provide reasons. We have requested reasons for his decision as we will be exploring the option of petitioning the SCA.” DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • jeyezed says:

    With Helen’s and Hlope involved,their track records provide a good indication of what the correct outcome should be.

  • Ian McGill says:

    All comrades together watching each others back.

  • Dennis Bailey says:

    Everything Hlope touches turns into controversy.

  • Hermann Funk says:

    I am not a legal expert, but find it strange that the same judge who issued the ruling originally also chairs the request for appeal. Surely, this is not right? We all know what a slimy character Hlophe is.

  • Cunningham Ngcukana says:

    We are being told who we must believe in a situation that involved two people with no any other witness and clear motive for the actions of Mr Bhongo. We are said that we must believe Vanara without any shred of evidence except for what he says and for some other reasons unbeknown to us Bhongo must not be believed. In my it judicial and legal thuggery to promote such. The Magopeni case and Vanara at the SABC convinced me that he is serving an agenda and Hlophe is an erudite judge better than Nicholson whose judgement was hit for
    six by Harmse and ought to have been impeached.

  • Paddy Ross says:

    I thought that Hlophe had been suspended after the Legal Practice Council found him at fault. What is this aberrant man doing still sitting in judgment of cases?

  • Johan Buys says:

    Bongo about his other case : “ we will just squash it in November” Is that judge also in his faction?

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