Hawks arrests: Bongani Bongo says Ace Magashule is next

Ace Magashule. Picture: Jacques Naude / African News Agency (ANA)

In a television interview with eNCA that has left South Africa gobsmacked, former state security minister Bongani Bongo has said that he was told the secretary-general of the ANC, Ace Magashule, would be among those arrested in the same anti-corruption sweep by the Hawks and the National Prosecuting Authority that has been dominating headlines.

Bongo claimed that he fell mysteriously ill in an alleged poisoning shortly after having made contact with Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan, a favourite target of many in both the ANC and the EFF who have been accused of corruption and crime.

Bongo apparently went to Cuba for treatment for this. He accused Gordhan of being part of a “plot” against him and Magashule.

Gordhan’s spokesperson Sam Mkokeli said Bongo’s allegations were ridiculous, and that Bongo must be “hallucinating”.

The arrested MP made it clear to eNCA that he knew that several others were due to be charged, and that Magashule may have a lot to worry about.

“You know recently I was given a poison so I was going to finalise my treatment in Cuba, so I had to cut my trip very short from Cuba to come and attend to what the police had called me for,” said Bongo.

“I was not arrested,” he claimed. “The police called me when I was in Cuba to say that I must come back because there was a case that I must appear on.

“I was in Cuba for a treatment of the poison I got recently.

Bongo’s claim that he had not been arrested at all was a particularly strange one considering that he appeared at the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court on Thursday, where he was released on bail of R5,000. People who don’t get arrested don’t ever have to apply for bail.

Hawks spokesperson Hangwani Mulaudzi and the NPA have also been clear that Bongo was arrested on bribery charges after allegedly trying to derail a parliamentary inquiry into alleged state capture at Eskom by trying to convince an advocate to call in sick.

During the same eNCA interview, Bongo denied that he ever attempted to bribe an advocate.

He denied ever having met former acting Eskom chair Zethembe Khoza and said Advocate Ntuthuzelo Vanara did not have the capacity to stop an inquiry sanctioned by a parliamentary committee. He said he doesn’t “think” he had the blank cheque he is accused of offering Vanara and added that he didn’t have the money to bribe anyone or had any interest in influencing parliament regarding Eskom.

Bongo’s case will next be heard on January 31, 2020. He faces pressure now to step aside as both an MP and as the home affairs committee chair, but Magashule himself will have to decide Bongo’s fate, including whether to report him to the party’s integrity commission.

ANC chief whip Pemmy Majodina told TimesLIVE that “maybe the ANC has to reconsider this deployment”.

The NPA this week made it clear it is nearly ready to take more corruption and state capture cases to court in addition to those of the Estina dairy farm project, in which Magashule is implicated.

NPA spokesperson Bulelwa Makeke said the NPA was poised to tackle a number of other high-profile cases, but declined to give details.

She said that the Estina matter was being processed and prepared to go to court, and after all evidence had been collected it would be put on the court roll.

“There will be, that’s for sure, but as to who and when, we cannot say at the moment,” Makeke said.

This week the NPA’s investigative directorate head advocate Hermione Cronje announced that both the Estina case and the matter of former crime intelligence boss Mdluli were going back to court as sufficient evidence had been gathered.

Cronje said that in the Estina matter they were waiting for some evidence from the United Arab Emirates where the Gupta brothers are said to be living and once they received it they would enrol the matter.

In the Estina matter, Free State provincial government officials and the Guptas were allegedly linked to corruption in the looting of funds from the project meant to uplift 100 black emergent farms in the Vrede area.

The commission was told that the dairy project stopped when National Treasury pulled the plug and instructed the agriculture department to withhold a R53 million grant to the Free State government for the project. This was after the province could not provide a feasibility study, business plan or water-use licence.

(Compiled by Charles Cilliers. Background reporting, Daniel Friedman and Eric Naki).