Bongo ‘bribe’: Eskom top brass ‘feared jail’

Board chair­man named in sworn state­ment as try­ing to buy off lawyer to block cap­ture in­quiry

Sunday Times - - FRONT PAGE - By THABO MOKONE

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

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.