Western Cape High Court Judge President John Hlophe says the evidence given by two key state witnesses in the corruption trial of ANC MP Bongani Bongo doesn’t add up.
On Friday, acting parliamentary secretary Baby Tyawa and National Council of Provinces (NCOP) secretary Modhibedi Phindela took to the witness stand after missing their initial deadline to appear in court.
Bongo, a former State Security Minister, has pleaded not guilty to a corruption charge emanating from an accusation that he tried to disrupt a parliamentary inquiry into state capture at Eskom on 10 October 2017.
Proceedings started with Phindela testifying that Ntuthuzela Vanara, the evidence leader at the inquiry, told him Bongo offered him a bribe.
Tyawa told the court that Vanara told her directly in the presence of secretary to National Assembly Masibulele Xaso and Phindela about Bongo’s alleged attempt to collapse the Eskom inquiry.
But Hlophe highlighted a discrepancy in Tyawa’s testimony.
Hlophe said: “Advocate Phindela gave evidence just before you. His evidence is very clear. He said he (Vanara) was offered a bribe. He made no reference in collapsing the inquiry. You see the difference between you two.
“Your version and his version… it [your version] flies in the face of his version. Because he said that Mr Vanara said he was offered a bribe. That’s all he said. Can you help me understand your evidence as it conflicts with Mr Phindela.”
Tyawa responded: “I have got nothing to say.”
Xaso and Phindela agreed to inform Twaya, which they did while at their workshop in Stellenbosch.
When Vanara first told her of the allegations, Tyawa told him to put it in writing. As head of Parliament’s administration, she is not responsible for members’ conduct.
Tyawa said matters involving MPs are referred to the Speaker of the National Assembly.
Due to the allegations Vanara, who was an acting registrar at the time, levelled against Bongo, he had to be excused from the ethics committee and another advocate appointed to sit in on proceedings.
Once this was done, Tyawa said, her role ended.
Advocate Mike Hellens SC, Bongo’s counsel, questioned whether the ethics committee made any progress on the matter.
“I don’t know, they don’t report to me,” was Tyawa’s response.
She also made it clear that the contents of Vanara’s affidavit was submitted directly to Parliament’s executive authority with “a cover letter”.
Hellens repeatedly asked Tyawa why the matter was not reported to the police.
“If you believe a crime was committed or there is a suspicion of a crime, you would have reported it to the police,” Hellens said.
In response, Tyawa said she had no authority to interfere in the conduct of an MP.
“In terms of Financial Management of Parliament Act I am obliged to report corruption as far as it concerns administrative staff,” she said.
The case against Bongo comes after former President Jacob Zuma announced, in 2017, an inquiry into the Eskom power utility following several allegations of corruption.
According to an initial affidavit by Vanara, who was the inquiry’s evidence leader at the time, Bongo asked him to fake an illness and take sick leave because the inquiry could not proceed in his absence.
Bongo also allegedly offered Vanara a cash bribe. Proceedings will continue on Monday.