ANC’s ’step aside’ resolution under spotlight after court dismisses Bongani Bongo case
Cape Town – The decision of the Western Cape High Court to dismiss the corruption case brought by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) against former state security minister Bongani Bongo has once again turned a sharp focus on the ANC’s “step aside” resolution, which first came into force in August last year.
According to critics, the NPA is also to blame for getting involved in nasty factional fights of the ruling party, putting its credibility and independence in doubt.
Bongo who was accused of trying to collapse an Eskom inquiry in 2017, by offering a bribe to evidence leader advocate Nthuthuzelo Vanara, walked free yesterday. Speaking to reporters outside court, he said he felt vindicated by the decision of the court.
This raised questions of what would have happened if he had stepped aside when he was charged.
Weighing in on the matter, ANC MP and former North West premier Supra Mahumapelo said the step-aside resolution was politically correct but constitutionally flawed as it was in conflict with the laws of the country.
“Luthuli House failed the ANC and the nation during the final drafting of the resolutions because ANC resolutions should have first been subjected to legal scrutiny before going for print.
’’In reality, the ANC should be depending on the conscience of its members particularly those who know they have done something wrong somewhere.
“If this does not happen, no one should seek to concoct charges against people and parade them as the Zuma corruption brigade as the South African narrative is today,” Mahumapelo said.
He lambasted the NPA and Hawks for making arrests without having enough evidence to convict a person.
“The Hawks should not be arresting people and the NPA charging them when they have not thoroughly empirically researched their cases.”
Another opponent of the step aside resolution, Andile Lungisa, from the structures of the ANC in Nelson Mandela Bay, echoed Mahumapelo and said the resolution was in conflict with the Constitution of the country and should not be implemented.
“If they want people to step aside, they must first amend the Constitution. When they wanted to expropriate land without compensation they knew that the resolution was in conflict with the Constitution hence there is a process to amend it,” he said.
He said the dismissal of Bongo's corruption case is a victory for all those who want to protect the country’s Constitution.
MKMVA president Kebby Maphatsoe, who has been against the step-aside resolution and at some point claimed it was being used to illegally push corruption-accused ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule out of his office, said the resolution must be taken to branches for a final say.
“The step-aside resolution will create a crisis for the ANC,” he said.
Again, the NPA was not spared as Maphatsoe said the role of the NPA in factional fights of the ANC is worrisome.
“We have been constantly saying that state institutions must not be used to fight ANC battles. They must be impartial. If Bongo stepped aside, he would have lost his job and never got it back even after being found not guilty... Let us resolve our issues internally and stop using state institutions,” he said.
The spokesperson of the ANC youth league in the Free State, Reagan Booysen, said the step aside resolution of the ruling party was a dilemma as “it is superseding the Constitution of the country”.
“We cannot have another policy that supersedes the Constitution of the country. It means we will be undermining the same Constitution we drafted, that we fought for as the African National Congress,” he said.
NPA spokesperson in the Western Cape Eric Ntabazalila said when they took the matter to court, they were certain of scoring a conviction. He added they don’t want to entertain those saying the NPA is playing politics.
“The NPA took the case to court because we believed we had sufficient evidence to prove corruption. It is our view the allegations were substantiated.
’’We shall study the judgment and decide on the way forward. We don't wish to be drawn into politics, as I said earlier, we are led by evidence,” Ntabazalila said.
The office of the ANC chief whip, Pemmy Majodina, said it welcomed the decision of the court on Bongo. It added they had always said the law must take its course and they appreciated and commended the work of the judiciary in ensuring justice prevailed.
“We also commend comrade Bongo for adhering to the prescripts of the South African laws until his name was cleared by the courts.”
ANC spokesperson Pule Mabe did not comment when asked about the feasibility of the step-aside resolution in the wake of Bongo’s victory.