Judge Hlophe defers ruling on application to acquit Bongo
Cape Town - The issue of the charge against ANC MP and former state security minister Bongani Bongo being laid by then DA Chief Whip John Steenhuisen came under the microscope in court during the hearing of an application to acquit brought by the defence.
The charge by Steenhuisen led to Bongo being charged with attempting to bribe a now former parliamentary official, Ntuthuzelo Vanara, in a bid to collapse a 2017 parliamentary enquiry into SOEs and Eskom. Bongo has denied the charge.
Bongo's advocate Mike Hellens SC said the charge against Bongo, laid by Steenhuisen and which accused Bongo of actually having bribed Vanara was inaccurate.
Hellens said: “The fact that the allegation was made by a politician, picking up a stompie of what Vanara said and getting right according to what Steenhuisen said, but wrong, in fact, is another problem.”
State prosecutor Thersia Du Toit-Smit said she did not know where Steenhuisen got the information about the bribery from but assumed that he must have picked it up when the matter of the attempted bribe reached the Speaker who then made the story known in the House.
Asking questions of the prosecution for clarification, Western Cape High Court Judge President John Hlophe said: “We know now that the allegation that Mr Vanara received a bribe from Mr Bongo is false. In other words, Mr Steenhuisen lied under oath.”
Meanwhile, Vanara, the state’s star witness in the case was said by Hellens to have “a fundamental credibility problem” and as such, the sate has no case against Bongo.
Hellens said: “There are key areas of his testimony where he should be found to be unreliable. His testimony is not corroborated by any of the other witnesses who all have different bits and pieces and provided contradictory versions.”
Bongo has pleaded not guilty to a charge of attempting to bribe Vanara, in a bid to collapse a 2017 parliamentary enquiry into SOEs and Eskom.
At the time, Vanara was 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.
Du Toit-Smit argued: “The evidence of the corroborating witnesses did not differ in material respects. The argument that these witnesses’ evidence amount to hearsay is flawed as the witness on whose credibility the evidence relied was already led. His evidence was corroborated by these witnesses.”
On the issue of the process followed in reporting the matter and whether administrators at Parliament should have reported an allegation of an attempted bribe to the police or not, Du Toit-Smit said: “Vanara was duty- bound to report the incident to his seniors, which he did.”
Hellens made a point of repeatedly asking witnesses why on hearing the allegations made by Vanara about the alleged bribe they did not report it directly to the Hawks, as required by the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities (Precca) 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 said: “Vanara also included in his explanation when giving evidence why it took him 16 days to finalise his affidavit. He in fact testified that his affidavit had to be typed by himself as he considered the information sensitive. This must say something about his integrity and credibility.”
Judge Hlophe reserved judgement on the application to acquit until Friday morning.