In an affidavit that came to light last week, the evidence leader of the parliamentary Eskom inquiry, Advocate Ntuthuzelo Vanara, stated that the Minister of State Security, Bongani Bongo, offered him a bribe to derail the inquiry. It was specifically stated that Bongo told Vanara that he offered him the “blank cheque” at the request of the interim chairman of the Eskom board, Zethembe Khoza. Khoza has since denied that he had anything to do with the bribe or that he even knows Bongo.
All parties taking part in the Eskom inquiry were outraged by this, and the Speaker even reported this on Monday to President Zuma, as Minister Bongo is a member of his cabinet. The Presidency released a statement on Tuesday stating that the president is “attending to the matter”.
Whether Bongo did this at the behest of the interim Eskom chairman or not, is irrelevant. His motive is not what counts, but that he offered the bribe. It is highly unlikely that Advocate Vanara would have made this up.
So here is a newly appointed Cabinet Minister in the important portfolio of State Security, being accused in public (in Parliament to boot) of offering a bribe to the evidence leader of a parliamentary inquiry, involving corruption and maladministration in a state-owned enterprise. In any other democracy, this would have made the headline news, with the Minister in question taking legal advice or resigning. But not a word has been uttered by Minister Bongo.
And the Minister’s direct boss has had knowledge of this serious accusation for four days, and he is apparently still “attending to the matter”. The question is: how long does the President have to think about this serious charge before he acts on it? In countless other instances in political life and in the civil service, the procedure has been that if there is any credence to the charges, the accused is suspended almost immediately, pending an investigation of such accusations. In this case a senior advocate has made the accusation under oath. Surely this warrants action on the President’s part? Or do the normal rules and procedures not apply to one of the President’s cabinet ministers?
The Constitution in section 96, makes apparent the standard to which Minister Bongo should be held - that he should not act in any way that is inconsistent with his office, or expose himself to any situation involving the risk of a conflict between his official responsibility and private interests. The Constitution further forbids Minister Bongo from using his position to enrich himself or to improperly benefit any other person. In attempting to derail the parliamentary inquiry, Minister Bongo’s conduct is a direct violation of the Constitution.
President Zuma should show that he is serious about taking action against corruption. We are waiting and watching Mr President...
By Theuns Eloff: Executive Director, FW de Klerk Foundation
1 December 2017