UPDATE: No evidence of complaint against Bongani Bongo with Public Protector

2019-06-19 09:52
Bongani Bongo. (Lindile Mbontsi, Gallo Images, Daily Sun, file)

Bongani Bongo. (Lindile Mbontsi, Gallo Images, Daily Sun, file)

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Editor's Note: A previous version of this story stated that an alleged complaint against Bongani Bongo filed with the Public Protector had disappeared. This was factually incorrect as a case was not opened with the Public Protector, but rather pursued with Parliament's ethics committee. News24 apologises for the error.

It appears Bongani Bongo is not under the Public Protector's spotlight, with information emerging that the Chapter 9 institution may never have received a complaint against him - two years after claims first emerged that he allegedly tried to bribe the evidence leader of a parliamentary inquiry into state capture at Eskom.

In 2017, the Democratic Alliance indicated it would lay a complaint with the Public Protector, as well as opening a criminal case.

The DA's John Steenhuisen opened a corruption case against Bongo in November 2017, City Press reported at the time.

Bongo told News24 the Public Protector's office told him there was no complaint against him.

Public Protector spokesperson Oupa Segalwe said he had seen reports about the complaint in the media but added: "We do not seem to have a complaint against him."

Mkhwebane has been the subject of public outcry this week for her scrapping of the Gupta Waterkloof landing report.

READ: Investigation into Gupta Waterkloof landing was thorough and complete - Madonsela

In 2017, an attempt to intervene in the portfolio committee on public enterprises Eskom inquiry allegedly led Bongo to offer parliamentary evidence leader advocate Ntuthuzelo Vanara a blank check to resign.

This is according to the Sunday Times, which reported that it had seen an affidavit Vanara submitted to former National Assembly speaker Baleka Mbete.

When asked about the matter, Steenhuisen said the DA had filed a number of complaints with the Public Protector.

"I don't know what the status of it is because I've had no return from the Public Protector's office. There's been no response back - one of the many complaints that have gone into the office that have not been finalised," he told News24.

He added: "The bulk of the complaint [against Bongo] was actually being processed by the parliamentary ethics committee where the majority of the evidence had been led and it reached inquiry stage. I don't know what the status of that is because all business before the House at the end of a [parliamentary] term falls away. There are a number of outstanding complaints that have been lodged."

Bongo said he was told there was no investigation against him by the Public Protector.

"I'm not even sure whether there is even such a complaint from their office … I did ask that office whether there is such a complaint and they said: 'We don't have a complaint.'" 

Steenhuisen confirmed on Friday that his request for an inquiry into Mkhwebane's fitness to hold office has been referred to the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services for consideration.

MUST READ: TIMELINE: Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane's term in office so far

The Bongo Alliance

Bongo and Mkhwebane's relationship dates back to 2016 when Bongo was part of the ad-hoc committee that interviewed candidates for the Public Protector position. He has been an outspoken advocate for Mkhwebane's appointment.

In 2016, News24 reported on Bongo's support, stating that Bongo said she was "right for the job as she could hit the ground running, as she had worked for the office before".

City Press also reported that Bongo was not a fan of former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela and harassed her in meetings with questions about her personal life.

While Mkhwebane faced criticism for her recommendation to amend the Constitution and accommodate changes to the mandate of the South African Reserve Bank (SARB), Bongo backed her.

When she decided to withdraw this after the backlash, Bongo also backed her.

His sudden rise to Minister of State Security in 2017 also raised some eyebrows.

Three years before his promotion, he was an unknown MP in Mpumalanga, having only been in Parliament for six months. His allegiance to former president Jacob Zuma went as far as supporting government efforts to ban Jacques Pauw's controversial book about Zuma.

As for the beleaguered Mkhwebane, this week has been a stressful one. On Wednesday, she revealed that she had closed Madonsela's investigation into the Gupta Waterkloof landing of 2013.

The complaint, lodged by Lieutenant Colonel Christine Anderson, pertained to her treatment of the justice, crime prevention and security (JCPS) task team.

Mkhwebane said she decided to close the case because charges against Anderson had been withdrawn. She was already retired and Mkhwebane was satisfied that the task team had treated Anderson fairly.

Madonsela, however, confirmed to News24 that the investigation related to much more than just Anderson.

"The investigation covered everything that happened - the landing, the home affairs people, everything. We covered everything …" she said.

She added: "The intention was to publish the report dealing with what happened and then our commentary on what the task team was expected to do, but we needed to know what happened to be able to comment on the failures of the task team in investigating what happened."

David Maynier, now Democratic Alliance Finance MEC in the Western Cape, also laid a complaint with Madonsela's office.

Speaking to News24 about Mkhwebane's scrapping of the report, Maynier said he was concerned about other investigations that have been scrapped of which the public are unaware.

"[An issue] that needs to be looked at is the practice of closing investigations but keeping the fact of that secret. There is now a question of other investigations that have been closed and not been made public," he said.

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Read more on:    public protector  |  da  |  bongani bongo  |  busisi­we mkhwebane  |  john steenhui­sen  |  politics
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