State Security Minister Bongani Bongo 'tried to bribe' state capture lawyer
Evidence leader 'says minister asked him to name his price'
State Security Minister Bongani Bongo is being investigated for allegedly trying to bribe the evidence leader of the parliamentary inquiry into state capture in an attempt to collapse the probe.
The Sunday Times has learnt that Advocate Ntuthuzelo Vanara has submitted an affidavit to parliament accusing Bongo of offering him an "open cheque" to resign as evidence leader in the probe into allegations of state capture at Eskom - to frustrate the process.
National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete's office confirmed receipt of the affidavit.
If Vanara's claims are true, this was Bongo's second attempt to block the investigation into state capture.Last month he led a delegation of ANC MPs who went to Luthuli House to plead with party bosses to call off the probe.
Bongo was a backbencher who joined parliament in 2014. He was known for raising frivolous points of order in parliament.
However, he has recently emerged as one of President Jacob Zuma's henchmen. He was one of the MPs who worked tirelessly to convince other ANC parliamentarians not to vote with the opposition in the last vote of no confidence in Zuma.
He is also the subject of a Hawks investigation into the sale of land in Mpumalanga. He is accused of receiving payments from landowners while he was in the employ of the Mpumalanga department of human settlements.
Parliament spokesman Moloto Mothapo said Vanara's affidavit was referred to parliament's joint ethics committee, which is co-chaired by MPs Amos Masondo and Omie Singh, for further investigation.
"The presiding officers have received an affidavit, although we can't disclose its source. As is practice on such matters, they have referred it to parliament's ethics committee. It is hoped that the committee will swiftly deal with the matter and report back to both the speaker and the House upon conclusion," said Mothapo in a written response.
He declined to confirm the name of the minister implicated by Vanara, although those with intimate knowledge of the matter say it is Bongo.
"We are unable to disclose against whom the allegations in the affidavit are made due to the confidential nature of the affidavit and respect to the confidentiality of the committee process," said Mothapo.
Speaking through his spokesman, Brian Dube, Bongo did not deny or confirm the bribery claims, with Dube saying only: "He has asked parliament to furnish him with the affidavit.He's asking to have a look at the affidavit so that he can consider his legal options."
Insiders said Vanara claimed that Bongo offered him a blank cheque at a meeting in the minister's parliamentary office. Bongo is said to have asked Vanara to "name his price".It is understood that Vanara did not decline or accept the offer but immediately prepared a sworn statement which he submitted to his bosses, secretary to the National Assembly Masibulele Xaso and the acting secretary to parliament Baby Tyawa.
Xaso and Tyawa then escalated the matter to Mbete, who on Friday decided that it should be investigated by the joint ethics committee.
Singh said he would be meeting Vanara on Tuesday to discuss the matter before tabling it at a full sitting of the joint ethics committee.
"I've not received that document as yet. It has not come to me as yet. Vanara has got it. I'm meeting him on Tuesday," said Singh.
Vanara declined to comment on the matter, saying he was not authorised to discuss it publicly.
But those close to him said he was convinced that there was "good cause for the institution to pursue the matter".
One insider who is familiar with the matter said: "We've heard that they are offering him money, and I can tell you that they won't win against that guy."
The alleged bribery offer to Vanara came just as he came under political pressure this week when his integrity was attacked by Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown and her deputy, Ben Martins.
Also, the office of the state law adviser threatened to report Vanara to the General Council of the Bar of South Africa, saying he had a conflict of interest by being the evidence leader in the inquiry when he was a full-time employee of parliament.
Brown and Martins alleged Vanara was guilty of procedural unfairness because he had not allowed them right of reply to some of the allegations that were made against them during the evidence given by Eskom employees.