Eskom inquiry: Ex-minister Bongani Bongo pleads not guilty to bribing parliamentary official
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Cape Town - ANC MP and former state security minister Bongani Bongo has pleaded not guilty to a charge of attempting to bribe a senior parliamentary official, Ntuthuzelo Vanara, in a bid to disrupt an inquiry into Eskom.
Vanara was at the time of the alleged incident in 2017 Parliament’s senior manager in charge of legal and constitutional services.
He told Western Cape High Court Judge President John Hlophe that Bongo had met him and called him three times at the behest of then acting Eskom chairperson Zethembe Khoza and asked him to “assist in stopping a parliamentary inquiry into Eskom”.
Vanara said: “Bongo said I should fake an illness and take sick leave ahead of the parliamentary committee’s sitting. He said the committee would not proceed in my absence. It was then that I said I would not assist.
“I told Bongo that the inquiry was the result of a political decision and if the politicians didn’t want to proceed with it, then the solution would be to reverse the decision. Bongo agreed and said he was working on a petition and mobilising other MPs to sign it, but that with my expertise I could stop or delay the inquiry,” said Vanara.
“When I again said I couldn’t assist, Bongo said just name your price and tell me how you will assist the people at Eskom to stop the inquiry. At that stage I told Bongo that my conscience and integrity would not allow me to accept such a proposal and that I considered our meeting to be over,” Vanara said.
Vanara said he informed his seniors in Parliament of the issue but conceded he never reported the matter to the police.
Before the case began, Bongo’s lawyer Mike Hellens read his client’s statement in which Bongo said: “I deny that I made any offer or suggestion whatsoever to Mr Vanara aimed at derailing or interfering at all with the parliamentary inquiry into Eskom. I deny offering him money in any form whatsoever to achieve any purpose at all, let alone one linked to interference with the running of the parliamentary inquiry into Eskom.”
Bongo said: “I note the affidavit against me was only attested to on October 26, 2017, while the incident is alleged to have occurred on October 10, 2017.
“I note that the complaint was not directed to the SAPS or the NPA, but was a political complaint made to the parliamentary sub committee on ethics and members interests. Thereafter, after much publication in the press, any complaint of a criminal nature was first made by John Steenhuisen of the DA,” said Bongo.
In his cross examination, Hellens suggested that Vanara, who is now working at the SABC, is a conspiracy theorist and that all Bongo had tried to do was to debate whether the country’s interests were served by having parallel inquiries, one by Parliament and the other by what would later become the Zondo Commission, into the same matter.
The case continues this morning at the Western Cape High Court.