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