Bongo’s defence to apply for acquittal as State wraps up evidence in bribery case
Cape Town - The defence in the case of ANC MP and former state security minister Bongani Bongo has signalled it will be applying for an acquittal of the matter when the court resumes on Wednesday.
The state's evidence in the case of ANC MP and former state security minister Bongani Bongo wrapped up this morning with the evidence of the Hawks officer Lieutenant-Colonel Vincent Mokwena, who investigated the matter.
After the state closed its case, Bongo’s advocate, Mike Hellens SC. told Judge President John Hlophe that he would be bringing a Section 174 application to dismiss the case along with his heads of argument when the case resumes on Wednesday morning.
Speaking after the adjournment, Hellens told reporters: “If looking at the State’s case, the evidence is so poor that no court can convict. I’ll be saying that the evidence is so bad, so inconsistent that only if Mr Bongo went into the witness box and said ’I plead guilty’, could he ever be convicted. In other words, there is no evidence upon which the court, acting carefully, might convict, because the quality of the evidence is so poor.”
Earlier Mokwena gave evidence of how he had interviewed a former senior parliamentary official, Ntuthuzelo Vanara, at a Pretoria hotel on the allegations Vanara had made about Bongo, which led to the case. Mokwena later told how he took a statement from Bongo in his Midrand home.
Bongo has pleaded not guilty to a charge of attempting to bribe Vanara in a bid to disrupt a 2017 parliamentary enquiry into state-owned enterprise and Eskom.
During Friday’s proceedings, the question of whether administrators at Parliament should have reported an allegation of an attempted bribe to the police or not dominated proceedings with references to the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities (Poca) Act.
The 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.
Hellens has made a point of repeatedly asking every witness, all of whom have been senior managers at Parliament, whether on hearing the allegations made about the alleged bribe they had reported to the Hawks.
After pressing state witness advocate Modibedi Phindela on the matter, 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.”
Addressing Phindela Judge Hlophe said: “Mr Hellens, to my understanding has been trying to put to you the following: the Poca Act imposes a duty upon anyone who knows that corruption has been committed, or who has reasonable suspicion of corruption being committed, to report that to the Hawks or to the police.
“Is it your case that once you have reported the matter to the administration, you are not required by law to report it to the Hawks?” asked Judge Hlophe.
Phindile said: “That is my understanding.”
The fifth State witness, acting secretary to Parliament Penelope Tyawa, ran into trouble with Judge Hlophe when she failed to mention in her evidence and during cross-examination that Vanara had alleged that Bongo tried to bribe him, only saying that he had said Bongo wanted to collapse the inquiry, yet she had put the bribery allegation in her affidavit.
Tyawa said: “Unfortunately, your honour, I cannot recall everything, particularly things that have got nothing to do with administration.”
Judge Hlophe said: “This is important because if advocate Bongo or anyone had approached the evidence leader to collapse the inquiry, or expressed the view that they wished the inquiry would go away, that’s not a crime. He’s merely expressing his views.
“It becomes a crime, however, when advocate Bongo, or anybody else, offers a bribe. There‘s a huge difference between wishing the inquiry to go away for whatever reasons. It is not and will never be a crime. However, going further and saying I want to pay you so much to end this inquiry, constitutes a crime,” said Judge Hlophe.
Tyawa said: “I’ve got nothing to say except that I was never immersed in the case. I was never going to remember every word and that kind of thing, and I never thought about it until I was approached to come here.”