Hours before arrest, ANC MP Bongani Bongo was told he would also be probed for ethics violation

21 November 2019 - 15:56 By THABO MOKONE
Bongani Bongo in Parliament on December 7 2017 in Cape Town, South Africa.
Bongani Bongo in Parliament on December 7 2017 in Cape Town, South Africa.
Image: Gallo Images / Daily Sun / Lindile Mbontsi

It was a double whammy week for former state security minister and ANC MP Bongani Bongo.

On the eve of his arrest on by the Hawks on Thursday on charges of corruption, parliament’s joint committee on ethics informed him that it was reviving a probe against him for breaching the legislature’s ethics code.

Bongo is chair of the National Assembly’s home affairs portfolio committee, and the alleged ethics breach stems from the fifth parliament.

The corruption charges levelled against Bongo by the National Prosecuting Authority and the ethics committee probe flow from shocking claims made exactly two years ago by former parliamentary legal adviser advvocate Nthuthuzelo Vanara.

At the time, Vanara, who is now head of legal services at the SABC, was serving as the evidence leader in parliament's inquiry into the capture of Eskom by members of the Gupta family, some politicians and some of the parastatal's senior executives.

In his affidavit filed with the former speaker of the National Assembly, Baleka Mbete, Vanara alleged that Bongo had offered him a blank cheque in exchange of him scuppering the parliamentary inquiry into corruption and mismanagement at Eskom.

But the ethics committee probe against Bongo never went anywhere as the matter went in and out of court as he adopted a "Stalingrad strategy" until the previous parliament was dissolved when its term expired early in May before the 2019 general election.

Pemmy Majodina, the chief whip of the ANC in the National Assembly, on Thursday told journalists that the ethics committee this week informed Bongo, just hours before his arrest, that its probe against him would be started afresh by the newly constituted body tasked with holding MPs who behave badly accountable.

“The ethics committee was inducted only two weeks ago and by yesterday Mr Bongo had been informed that soon he must appear before the ethics committee. So there's no lull on the matter that affects Mr Bongo, but we had to allow the processes of parliament to kick-start,” said Majodina.

Asked if she wanted Bongo to step aside as an MP and home affairs committee chair, Majodina said she would be sending a report to the office of ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule for him to decide Bongo's fate, including whether to report him to the party's integrity commission.

“The ANC made deployments of their members but now if there's such a case, maybe the ANC has to reconsider this deployment. Within the next three days we'll know exactly what's going to happen to Bongo, but at the moment I can't suspend him as a chair because the ANC have not as yet received a detailed report to say what's happened which led to his arrest.”

Bongo is one of three controversial former ministers who served under former president Jacob Zuma who were shockingly appointed as portfolio committee chairpersons in June.

At the time, the ANC argued that there was nothing in law that prevented Bongo's appointment because he had not been criminally charged.

''Now this is a game changer altogether that one must focus on and get a proper advice in the ANC to say how do we take it forward because now there are charges,” said Majodina.


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