The ANC caucus does not want to comment on the arrest and court appearance of one of its MPs, Bongani Bongo, and wants to allow the law to take its course, said ANC chief whip Pemmy Majodina.
Bongo, an ANC MP and former state security minister, briefly appeared in the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court on Thursday morning on a corruption charge.
The MP is accused of trying to disrupt a parliamentary inquiry into state capture at power utility Eskom on October 10, 2017, by allegedly attempting to bribe the inquiry’s evidence leader, advocate Ntuthuzelo Vanara.
Bongo’s bail was set at R5,000.
In a statement, Majodina said the ANC caucus “notes” that “comrade Bongani Bongo” was arrested.
“As the ANC, we will not comment on the allegations labelled against Cde Bongo as we want to allow the law to take its course,” read Majodina’s statement.
Former president Jacob Zuma appointed Bongo minister of state security in one of his infamous Cabinet reshuffles in October 2017 – the same month in which the alleged bribery attempt came to light.
President Cyril Ramaphosa fired him from Cabinet in February 2018 shortly after his election as president.
Despite the allegations hanging over his head, Bongo made the ANC’s electoral list, was elected to Parliament and appointed as the chairperson of the portfolio committee on home affairs.
Parliamentary spokesperson Moloto Mothapo said National Assembly Speaker Thandi Modise learnt of Bongo’s arrest and court appearance on Thursday morning.
“We do not have the details of the arrest. We do not have the details of the charges,” he said.
He said the speaker ought to be fully informed and briefed on the matter as the presiding officer of the house to which Bongo belongs.
“Parliament will closely monitor the developments in the case. We understand that the member is out on bail,” Mothapo said.
He said the monitoring would be done through the lens of the applicable parliamentary rules, legislation and the Constitution.
“Naturally, when something like this happens, the speaker would want to get in touch with the member in question so that the whole matter can be fully understood.”
In a statement, DA chief whip Natasha Mazzone, who served on the committee which conducted the inquiry into the state-owned enterprises, welcomed Bongo’s arrest and expressed the hope that it was the first of many to follow involving the “state capture foot soldiers”.
“The DA welcomes this action by the Hawks as we have always maintained that Bongo had a case to answer for. In fact, on 22 November 2017, the DA interim leader, John Steenhuisen, laid criminal charges against Bongo in terms of the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act. These charges related directly to the allegations that Bongo offered advocate Vanara a bribe in exchange for stepping down as evidence leader in the inquiry,” she said in the statement.
She said the DA always held the view that Bongo’s actions “were a gross violation of the law and his oath as a member of the executive”.
She claimed it was no secret that Bongo was a “critical acolyte in the Guptas’ and Jacob Zuma’s state capture mafia”.
“And yet, despite this, the ANC outrageously awarded him, and the likes of Faith Muthambi, Mosebenzi Zwane, and Supra Mahumapelo, with parliamentary chairpersonships.”
Cope viewed Bongo’s arrest as “just another proof that state capture is real”.
“It is a very chilling thought to think that the country’s security and intelligence was in the hands of a man who must stand trial on serious charges of corruption,” Cope spokesperson Dennis Bloem said in a statement.
“It is a disgrace that even though that a black cloud was hanging over the head of Bongo, the ANC still saw it fit to appoint him as chairperson of the portfolio committee on home affairs.”
Bloem said Cope was calling on Modise to immediately remove Bongo as chairperson of the committee.
The allegations that he tried to bribe Vanara are also the subject of an investigation by the Joint Committee on Ethics and Members’ Interests. This investigation was revived by the Sixth Parliament after Bongo’s legal attempts to scupper it failed earlier this year.
Mothapo said Modise hoped the investigation would be concluded soon.