ANC MP and former state security minister Bongani Bongo has pleaded not guilty to a charge of attempting to bribe senior parliamentary official Ntuthuzelo Vanara. Picture: Mwangi Githahu Cape Argus
ANC MP and former state security minister Bongani Bongo has pleaded not guilty to a charge of attempting to bribe senior parliamentary official Ntuthuzelo Vanara. Picture: Mwangi Githahu Cape Argus

Bongo’s defence grills parliamentary lawyer on protocol in reporting corruption

By Mwangi Githahu Time of article published Feb 19, 2021

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Cape Town - The question whether administrators at Parliament should have reported an allegation of an attempted bribe to the police dominated proceedings in the case of the ANC MP and former state security minister Bongani Bongo today.

Bongo has pleaded not guilty to the charge of attempting to bribe senior parliamentary official Ntuthuzelo Vanara in a bid to disrupt a 2017 parliamentary enquiry into state-owned enterprises and Eskom.

Bongo’s advocate, Mike Hellens SC asked the question repeatedly to National Council of Provinces (NCOP) secretary Modibedi Phindela, the fourth State witness to appear before Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe.

The Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act requires people in positions of authority in the public and private sectors to report corruption, and other crimes listed in the act, to the police.

Cross-examining Phindela, who is a lawyer, Hellens said: “You are a member of senior management in Parliament and as such, do you know that you are one of those persons, and you are are obliged to report matters of corruption to the Hawks?”

Phindela said: “Insofar as matters in Parliament occur, we report to the acting secretary to Parliament, who is the accounting officer. The accounting officer of Parliament is the secretary to parliament and therefore all matters are reported to the acting secretary or to the secretary to Parliament.”

Hellens said: “I don’t know whether to ask the question again or record that you didn’t answer it.” Phindela replied: “To my mind, I have answered the question.”

In his evidence-in-chef to state prosecutor Thersia du Toit-Smit, Phindela testified that he had been in Stellenbosch when Vanara, who was the Eskom inquiry committee’s evidence leader, rang him claiming that Bongo had offered him a bribe to interfere with the inquiry.

The fifth state witness was acting secretary to Parliament Penelope Tyawa who testified that she had also been in Stellenbosch on October 10, 2017 when Phindela, who was with Vanara and the state’s third witness, secretary to the National Assembly Masibulele Xaso told her of the allegation against Bongo.

Tyawa said: “Vanara mentioned that he had been approached by Bongo to collapse the investigation where he (Vanara) was lead evidence presenter.”

“I said to him that he had to reduce that statement and put it in writing because I am not responsible for MPs’ comments. I would have to report to the executive authority, He put it on paper and submitted it on October 26.” said Tyawa.

Tyawa said the executive authority in Parliament comprised, jointly, the Speaker of the National Assembly and the chairperson of the NCOP.

After Tyawa’s evidence and cross-examination were concluded, the case was adjourned until Monday.

Outside the court, a crowd of Bongo’s supporters sang and demonstrated as he left the building saying he would address them once the case was over.

Cape Argus

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