Bongo allegedly claimed he approached evidence leader on behalf of Eskom

Board chairman named in sworn statement as trying to buy off lawyer to block capture inquiry

26 November 2017 - 00:05 By THABO MOKONE

State Security Minister Bongani Bongo claimed he was following instructions from acting Eskom board chairman Zethembe Khoza when he offered parliamentary inquiry evidence leader Advocate Ntuthuzelo Vanara a bribe to collapse the investigation into the capture of Eskom.
This revelation is contained in an affidavit submitted by Vanara to parliamentary officials, which the Sunday Times has seen.
The Sunday Times reported last week that Bongo had allegedly tried to bribe Vanara. Now shocking details have come to light in the affidavit, including that Bongo:
• Relentlessly pursued Vanara with a blank cheque in exchange for him rendering the inquiry "dysfunctional" by resigning or "faking illness";
• Made phone calls almost daily to Vanara between October 4 and October 10, asking to meet; and
• Wanted to know whether Vanara had scheduled any meetings with Khoza prior to his appearance before the inquiry.At the time, Bongo was a little-known backbench ANC MP.
He was appointed to the cabinet by President Jacob Zuma just seven days after he allegedly "offered to hand over money" to Vanara if he agreed to collapse the inquiry.
This week the parliamentary hearing revealed explosive details of the influence of the Gupta family within the power utility and also implicated Zuma in alleged interference in the running of Eskom.
The Sunday Times reported last week that Bongo allegedly tried to bribe Vanara to frustrate the inquiry and keep the extent of Eskom corruption from the public eye.
Vanara, in his affidavit, says Bongo claimed to have been sent by Khoza and "people at Eskom" to stop the probe from going ahead because they feared incriminating evidence against them would be led.
"I inquired from him about the nature of the assistance required from myself. He told me the people of Eskom were worried that they would be invited to the committee, enough incriminating evidence will be led against them, and there would be police officials waiting to arrest them as they walked out of the committee proceedings ... further that the inquiry was affecting a number of campaigns. Thus, they needed my assistance."
Approached for comment this week, Khoza denied sending Bongo to bribe Vanara. "I don't even know him. I only saw him when he was appointed. I always speak to Advocate Vanara myself. So there was no need to send somebody else.
"I'm not involved, I don't know where that comes from ... I totally deny that, I've never spoken to him. We've never met. He doesn't know me at all."Last week Khoza was implicated in aiding state capture, during the testimony of Eskom reputation manager Khulani Qoma. Qoma told the inquiry that Khoza had called one of the Gupta brothers to inform him of a pending decision to suspend former acting CEO Matshela Koko. The suspension was blocked by Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown.
Vanara's eight-page affidavit states that after avoiding Bongo's overtures for seven days, Vanara decided to give him an audience last month after he came running after him in the corridors of parliament as Vanara approached his office.
"On Tuesday, October 10 2017, around past 10am, I was walking to my office when I heard the footsteps of someone running behind my back as I was approaching my office door.
"I turned around and saw the same MP who had wanted to meet with me."
Vanara states in the affidavit that he invited the persistent Bongo into his office. When he told Bongo he was not able to assist, Bongo would not have it and made dubious proposals for how Vanara could kill the inquiry.
"He then said I should fake illness and take sick leave the following week. In my absence the inquiry would not proceed. I told him the inquiry was not my process but a committee process. The committee can proceed even in my absence.
"He said I am the technical person in the inquiry and my absence would render the committee dysfunctional. I told him clearly that I was not going to do what he was asking me to do. At this stage, I had formed a view that the MP was literally asking me to collapse a parliamentary process. I was shocked and disappointed that an MP could even make such a statement."
Vanara's affidavit also states that Bongo told him he had been lobbying other ANC MPs to sign a petition calling for the termination of the Eskom inquiry as part of a "multi-pronged approach" to quash it.

This article is reserved for Sunday Times subscribers.

A subscription gives you full digital access to all Sunday Times content.

Already subscribed? Simply sign in below.

Registered on the BusinessLIVE, Business Day, Financial Mail or Rand Daily Mail websites? Sign in with the same details.

Questions or problems? Email or call 0860 52 52 00.