Defence says evidence is so bad that Bongo could only be convicted if he said 'I plead guilty'
Cape Town - The defence in the bribery case of ANC MP and former state security minister Bongani Bongo is optimistic about the outcome of its application for an acquittal of the matter when the court resumes on Wednesday.
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 it resumed tomorrow morning.
Section 174 of the Criminal Procedure Act incorporates the right of an accused to be discharged from the offence he or she has allegedly committed where, at the close of the State's case, there is insufficient evidence.
Speaking after the adjournment Hellens told reporters: “Looking at the State’s case, the evidence is so poor that no court can convict.”
Hellens said: “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 might convict, because the quality of the evidence is so poor.”
Bongo has pleaded not guilty to a charge of attempting to bribe a then parliamentary official, Ntuthuzelo Vanara, in a bid to collapse a 2017 parliamentary enquiry into SOEs and Eskom.
At the time Vanara was the evidence leader in the parliamentary investigation of Eskom, which was running parallel to another inquiry into the capture of state-owned enterprises, now known as the Zondo Commission.
The state's sixth and final witness was Lieutenant-Colonel Vincent Mokoena, the Hawks officer who investigated the matter.
Mokoena told the court that because he considered the statement by then DA Chief Whip John Steenhuisen, who laid the charge that sparked the whole case, to have been hearsay he thus had to interview Vanara to get the information from him.
Later, Mokoena approached Bongo who told him in a statement that the only purpose he had in meeting with Vanara was to discuss with him lawyer to lawyer whether it was in the country’s interests to go through a parallel process. Bongo denied to Mokoena that he had offered any bribe.
After Mokoena’s evidence and cross-examination, Judge Hlophe took him to task about why he did not pursue Vanara on the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities 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.
Mokoena said he was satisfied that Vanara’s reporting of the matter to his superiors in Parliament had been sufficient.
Judge Hlophe said: “You are aware of the law, but you are also aware that Mr Vanara had himself not reported. So my question is, did you draw his attention to the fact that in terms of the law, he, Mr Vanara, was in fact guilty of an offence?”
Mokoena said he had not done so.