Judge Hlophe cautions prosecution to ensure witnesses appear in Bongo case
Cape Town - Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe on Tuesday cautioned the state prosecutors in the case of the ANC MP and former state security minister Bongani Bongo, to ensure their witnesses appear when required.
Judge Hlophe was forced to adjourn proceedings early after two of the state’s witnesses, secretary to the National Council of Provinces division Modibedi Phindela and acting secretary to Parliament Penelope Tyawa, failed to appear in court to give evidence in the case where Bongo is charged with attempting to bribe a senior parliamentary official.
Prosecutor Denzyl Combrink said the state had booked the two witnesses for Friday, on the assumption the three witnesses that gave evidence on Tuesday would take up the whole day’s sitting.
On Monday, Judge Hlophe had said there would be no hearings on Wednesday and Thursday as he had other commitments and they would resume on Friday.
Combrink said Phindela and Twaya were tied up with parliamentary duties during the debate on the 2021 Sona and thus were unavailable on Tuesday afternoon.
Judge Hlophe said: “I am very angry and this borders on contempt. It is a waste of my time. It is the State that wanted to prosecute this matter. I am ruling now we will start on Friday at 11:30pm and run to 4pm. Your witnesses must be here. I don’t tolerate nonsense.”
Continuing his cross examination of Ntuthuzelo Vanara, Bongo’s advocate Mike Hellens SC tried to establish there was a political scheme against Bongo.
Hellens said: “You sat back and let Bongo be excoriated by the media. Had you reported the matter to the Hawks it would have brought matters to a head. I put it to you, your move was political and you wanted to cause political trouble.”
Vanara said: “I refute that. I had no political, personal or financial interest in implicating Mr Bongo in anything.”
In his evidence Disang Mocumi, who was secretary to Parliament’s portfolio committee inquiring into SOEs and Eskom, took the stand and appeared to contradict the sequence of events surrounding an alleged phone call to Vanara from Bongo.
In Vanara’s testimony he said he had discussed Bongo’s interest in the portfolio committee with Mocumi before receiving a phone call from Bongo, however, Mocumi said it had happened the other way around, that the discussion came after the phone call.
When secretary to the National Assembly Masibulele Xaso took the stand, Hellens pushed him to explain why as a lawyer he did not immediately follow section 34 of the Criminal Procedure Act on hearing of the alleged bribery attempt.
Xaso argued that he thought it was enough to report the matter to his superior manager in Parliament and they would take the matter forward.