Bongani Bongo. Picture: Elmond Jiyane
Bongani Bongo. Picture: Elmond Jiyane

Former state security minister Bongani Bongo claimed on Friday that a faction within the ANC was behind his prosecution because it believed he had access to files containing the names of “spies”.

He made the claim outside the Western Cape High Court after judge president John Hlophe granted his discharge application on a charge of corruption and found him not guilty of allegedly attempting to bribe Eskom inquiry evidence leader Ntuthuzelo Vanara. He and a crowd of ANC MPs — including former finance minister Malusi Gigaba — sang Mshiniwam — the unofficial war cry of the Jacob Zuma-aligned radical economic transformation (RET) faction — as they left the courtroom.

Hlophe’s judgment was scathing of Vanara‚ the sole witness to the alleged bribery attempt. Vanara accused Bongo of approaching him on October 10 2017‚ 10 days before parliament’s commission of inquiry into state capture at Eskom was due to start. Hlophe said other state witnesses contradicted Vanara’s evidence in some material aspects‚ and created reasonable doubt about his evidence.

Hlophe went further‚ saying that Vanara didn’t report the matter to the police‚ instead reporting it to parliament‚ because in Hlophe’s view‚ he himself didn’t believe what Bongo had done was a crime. Hlophe said DA MP John Steenhuisen gave an incorrect statement to the Hawks when he finally reported the matter to them in 2018. Steenhuisen had claimed that Bongo had “bribed” Vanara‚ insinuating that money was paid. Hlophe’s view was that Steenhuisen could only have got the information about what had transpired from Vanara himself.

Bongo’s supporters allege that a faction in the ANC had colluded with Steenhuisen‚ Vanara and the state’s other witnesses to fight a campaign against him. Overtures were made aligning Bongo’s prosecution to that of [ANC secretary-general] Ace Magashule and former president Jacob Zuma. The media was given rare insight into the alleged conspiracy theory as aspects of it materialised live on the steps of the high court.

Gigaba proclaimed it was perhaps not a coincidence that Vanara had rushed to Stellenbosch directly after the October 10 meeting to meet the state’s other witnesses. “It’s quite clear that we are dealing with a conspiracy to destroy him. The decision was taken somewhere in Stellenbosch to charge him. Whether this was a pure coincidence or the people who took the decision had gone there to consult their political principals who live in Stellenbosch‚ is something we may never get to know‚ but the coincidence is too big for us to ignore‚” he said.

The RET faction’s members are proponents of a conspiracy theory that Stellenbosch is the physical home of “white monopoly capital” and the seat of opposition to issues such as land expropriation without compensation. In fact‚ Vanara had travelled to Stellenbosch where his senior managers were in a National Education‚ Health‚ and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) conference to report the matter to them.

ANC MP and national executive council member Tandi Mahambehlala said‚ “The case against comrade Bongo was nothing but a conspiracy collaborated by those within our organisation‚ working with the forces of doom like the DA‚ to destroy our own‚ one way or the other.

“We hope that when we go to Bloemfontein we will have the same conviction‚ because charges against Magashule are nothing but frivolous‚ the same way as these ones against Bongo‚” she said.

Bongo told the media that the narrative of the past three years was a sideshow aimed at subverting expropriation without compensation.

“We have warned those who continue to use state institutions in political battles. I said when I was arrested that this is just a political gimmick. My name for the past three years has been in the media space that I’m corrupt‚ but I was [not]‚” said Bongo. “When we are done‚ we are going to explain how this conspiracy works. It is meant to deviate from ensuring that there is economic freedom in our lifetime‚” he said.  “We view this as a very serious indictment to the progressive forces.”

Asked why these alleged forces went after him specifically‚ he said‚ “They went after me for the simple reason that I was the minister of state security. They have the view that I have the files of all the people who were spies in this country. So they think I have those files. Whether I have them or not‚ it’s a discussion for another day.” 

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