Hawks probe Zuma’s new spy min­is­ter over ‘kick­back’

Sunday Times - - FRONT PAGE - By THAN­DUX­OLO JIKA and THABO MOKONE

Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma ap­pointed Bongani Bongo as state se­cu­rity min­is­ter de­spite the fact that the Hawks are in­ves­ti­gat­ing him for al­legedly re­ceiv­ing kick­backs in a pre­vi­ous job.

Bongo is al­leged to have bought a BMW X5 with the help of a R300 000 pay­ment made by a gov­ern­ment ser­vice provider to a car deal­er­ship five years ago, when he was an of­fi­cial in the Mpumalanga ad­min­is­tra­tion.

The Sun­day Times un­der­stands that when Zuma ap­pointed Bongo in his reshuf­fle last month, Bongo did not tell the pres­i­dent about the Hawks in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Just two days af­ter his ap­point­ment on Oc­to­ber 17, a team of top Hawks in­ves­ti­ga­tors and Na­tional Pros­e­cut­ing Au­thor­ity pros­e­cu­tors met to dis­cuss the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Act­ing Hawks head Lieu­tenant-Gen­eral Yolisa Matakata de­tailed the fraud in­ves­ti­ga­tion against Bongo four days later in one of sev­eral re­ports sub­mit­ted to the Po­lice Min­istry as part of rou­tine brief­ings on se­ri­ous in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

The re­port al­leges that the R300 000 was paid into the ac­count of BMW Sand­ton as a de­posit for Bongo to buy the Ger­man SUV. The money is be­lieved to have been a re­ward from com­pa­nies that ben­e­fited from his in­flu­ence while he was head of le­gal ser­vices in the Mpumalanga depart­ment of hu­man set­tle­ments.

It is al­leged that in 2012 Bongo ap­proved the pur­chase of three farms by Mpumalanga mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties as part of hous­ing and township de­vel­op­ments.

The Hawks re­port states the ve­hi­cle de­posit was paid on Bongo’s be­half by law firm Sing­wane and Part­ners, con­veyancers in the land deal.

Matakata’s re­port al­leges Bongo was re­spon­si­ble for draft­ing the sale con­tracts be­cause the deal was fi­nanced by his depart­ment.

The prov­ince al­legedly paid an in­flated price of R36-mil­lion for one of the prop­er­ties, whose mar­ket value was only R11-mil­lion. The depart­ment spent a to­tal of R123mil­lion on farms.

Matakata said the de­posit for the BMW

came to light dur­ing the Hawks in­ves­ti­ga­tion, which stemmed from a DA com­plaint in 2012.

The ve­hi­cle was reg­is­tered in the name of Bongo’s brother, Joel, although Bongo used it for per­sonal trans­port and of­fi­cial du­ties.

“Upon in­ves­ti­ga­tion it was dis­cov­ered the same ve­hi­cle was used by Ad­vo­cate Bongani Bongo. Tracker records re­vealed that the same ve­hi­cle was used en­tirely by Bongani Bongo from his house . . . in Nel­spruit to his place of work,” said Matakata’s re­port.

The re­port said Bongo, who was a lit­tle­known back­bench MP be­fore his ap­point­ment to the cab­i­net, had been in­ter­viewed and warn­ing state­ments had been ob­tained from him.

Matakata said the NPA had as­sem­bled a team of pros­e­cu­tors to look into the mat­ter and that the As­set For­fei­ture Unit had also been ac­ti­vated.

Hawks spokesman Hang­wani Mu­laudzi con­firmed the in­ves­ti­ga­tion. He said the docket would be passed on to the NPA once the in­ves­ti­ga­tion had been con­cluded.

“The in­ves­ti­ga­tions are still on­go­ing and we are not at lib­erty to dis­cuss the sta­tus of the case,” he said.

Bongani Mbind­wane, the po­lit­i­cal ad­viser to Po­lice Min­is­ter Fik­ile Mbalula, said: “We don’t dis­cuss on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tions with the me­dia, whether they ex­ist or not.”

Bongo’s spokesman Brian Dube did not re­spond to spe­cific ques­tions sent to him, but said the new min­is­ter was not aware of “any law­ful in­ves­ti­ga­tion against him”.

Mdu Sing­wane, a di­rec­tor of Sing­wane and Part­ners, said the firm paid the BMW de­posit on the in­struc­tions of Lit­tle River Trad­ing 156, a com­pany that was in­volved in the Mpumalanga farm trans­ac­tion.

Sing­wane con­firmed that he had been in­ter­viewed by the Hawks three years ago.

“The is­sue of the car was raised . . . we trans­ferred monies un­der the in­struc­tion of Lit­tle River. Af­ter we had trans­ferred [the land] Lit­tle River then came to us and said ‘our pro­ceeds must be de­posited ac­cord­ing to our in­struc­tions as fol­lows’.

“They gave us in­struc­tions as to how to go about it [the pay­ment]. The is­sue of Ad­vo­cate Bongo is an is­sue af­ter the fact,” Sing­wane said.

“If they say the car was bought through us, it’s as if we went to the dealer to sign pa­pers, which is not the case. This was an in­struc­tion from Lit­tle River and they made a state­ment to that ef­fect,” the lawyer said.

But Robert Bur­wise, a di­rec­tor of Lit­tle River Trad­ing, said he had no knowl­edge of the BMW pur­chase and de­clined to com­ment fur­ther.

Zuma’s of­fice had not re­sponded to re­quests for com­ment at the time of go­ing to print.

Bongani Bongo was a back­bench MP be­fore join­ing the cab­i­net last month.

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