Bongo ‘bribe’: Eskom top brass ‘feared jail’
Board chairman named in sworn statement as trying to buy off lawyer to block capture inquiry
State Security Minister Bongani Bongo claimed he was following instructions from acting Eskom board chairman Zethembe Khoza when he offered parliamentary inquiry evidence leader Advocate Ntuthuzelo Vanara a bribe to collapse the investigation into the capture of Eskom.
This revelation is contained in an affidavit submitted by Vanara to parliamentary officials, which the Sunday Times has seen.
The Sunday Times reported last week that Bongo had allegedly tried to bribe Vanara. Now shocking details have come to light in the affidavit, including that Bongo:
Relentlessly pursued Vanara with a blank cheque in exchange for him rendering the inquiry “dysfunctional” by resigning or “faking illness”;
Made phone calls almost daily to Vanara between October 4 and October 10, asking to meet; and
Wanted to know whether Vanara had scheduled any meetings with Khoza prior to his appearance before the inquiry.
At the time, Bongo was a little-known backbench ANC MP.
He was appointed to the cabinet by President Jacob Zuma just seven days after he allegedly “offered to hand over money” to Vanara if he agreed to collapse the inquiry.
This week the parliamentary hearing revealed explosive details of the influence of the Gupta family within the power utility and also implicated Zuma in alleged interference in the running of Eskom.
The Sunday Times reported last week that Bongo allegedly tried to bribe Vanara to frustrate the inquiry and keep the extent of Eskom corruption from the public eye.
Vanara, in his affidavit, says Bongo claimed to have been sent by Khoza and “people at Eskom” to stop the probe from going ahead because they feared incriminating evidence against them would be led.
“I inquired from him about the nature of the assistance required from myself. He told me the people of Eskom were worried that they would be invited to the committee, enough incriminating evidence will be led against them, and there would be police officials waiting to arrest them as they walked out of the committee proceedings . . . further that the inquiry was affecting a number of campaigns. Thus, they needed my assistance.”
Approached for comment this week, Khoza denied sending Bongo to bribe Vanara. “I don’t even know him. I only saw him when he was appointed. I always speak to Advocate Vanara myself. So there was no need to send somebody else.
“I’m not involved, I don’t know where that comes from . . . I totally deny that, I’ve never spoken to him. We’ve never met. He doesn’t know me at all.”
Last week Khoza was implicated in aiding state capture, during the testimony of Eskom reputation manager Khulani Qoma. Qoma told the inquiry that Khoza had called one of the Gupta brothers to inform him of a pending decision to suspend former acting CEO Matshela Koko. The suspension was blocked by Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown.
Vanara’s eight-page affidavit states that after avoiding Bongo’s overtures for seven days, Vanara decided to give him an audience last month after he came running after him in the corridors of parliament as Vanara approached his office.
“On Tuesday, October 10 2017, around past 10am, I was walking to my office when I heard the footsteps of someone running behind my back as I was approaching my office door.
“I turned around and saw the same MP who had wanted to meet with me.”
Vanara states in the affidavit that he invited the persistent Bongo into his office. When he told Bongo he was not able to assist, Bongo would not have it and made dubious proposals for how Vanara could kill the inquiry.
“He then said I should fake illness and take sick leave the following week. In my absence the inquiry would not proceed. I told him the inquiry was not my process but a committee process. The committee can proceed even in my absence.
“He said I am the technical person in the inquiry and my absence would render the committee dysfunctional. I told him clearly
that I was not going to do what he was asking me to do. At this stage, I had formed a view that the MP was literally asking me to collapse a parliamentary process. I was shocked and disappointed that an MP could even make such a statement.”
Vanara’s affidavit also states that Bongo told him he had been lobbying other ANC MPs to sign a petition calling for the termination of the Eskom inquiry as part of a “multipronged approach” to quash it.
“I said they would have to stop the inquiry themselves as politicians since they took the decision to conduct the inquiry. I was nothing but an insignificant individual in the process. He differed and said I was key due to my technical expertise. I said I would not help them with their plan.
“He then said: ‘Just name the price and tell me how you would help them stop the inquiry. I will then go back to the Eskom people, tell them of your plan to stop the inquiry and the price they would have to pay you for your assistance. They would then give me the money and I will hand over the money to you.’
“I was shocked at what was now clearly an attempt to bribe me and told him that conscience and integrity would not allow me to do that, I consider the meeting over, and he should leave my office as I had other things to do.
“He asked me to think about it and again I said there was nothing to think about here. I considered the conversation to be over.”
Parliament’s spokesman Moloto Mothapo would not comment as the matter was the subject of a probe by parliament’s ethics committee. He declined to indicate if security around Vanara had been stepped up following a threat to his life, “due to the sensitive nature of security matters”.
Speaking through his spokesman, Brian Dube, Bongo said he would not “deal with or entertain the merits of what’s being said” in the affidavit as parliament was probing the matter.
State Security Minister Bongani Bongo