Bongo: ‘Rumours of my death would have killed me’

Bongani Bongo. Picture: Elmond Jiyane / GCIS
Bongani Bongo. Picture: Elmond Jiyane / GCIS

Former state security minister and ANC MP Bongani Bongo says rumours of his alleged death would have killed him if he had heard them while in hospital.

Bongo has spent the last few weeks at Netcare Waterfall hospital in Midrand due to suspected poisoning. His protracted hospital stay led to speculation that he was knocking on death’s door, with others claiming that he had died. An ANC member in Mpumalanga, Bongo’s home province, said: “We heard that he was vomiting blood for three days. It’s a very dangerous poison.”

Bongo, who was discharged from hospital on Tuesday, told City Press he was glad to be alive. He refused to divulge what doctors had found to be the reason for his sickness. “I’m not yet going to talk about my illness and there’s nothing I can clarify at this point. I need to study the doctors’ notes and do some investigation. What matters is that I’m home now and back at work,” he said.

“I’m aware of the rumours being spread from Mpumalanga and nationally, because Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Deputy Minister Sdumo Dlamini is also in hospital.”

Dlamini is in a Durban hospital, where he was admitted after a “severe headache” last month. Rumours also did the rounds that he had been poisoned.

Bongo said that he was happy to have heard most of the rumours only after being discharged from hospital, because they would have “finished” him off otherwise. “Other people even thought I was dead, and this is not what I would have liked to hear when I was in hospital. One comrade in Mpumalanga told me that another comrade was asking him if he had heard about my death,” he said.

Bongo, who was appointed chairman of the portfolio committee on home affairs in Parliament two months ago, served as minister of state security under former president Jacob Zuma for four months. At the time of his appointment as minister, Bongo was virtually unknown. He became an MP directly after being legal advisor at the Mpumalanga human settlements department.

He became known as a staunch supporter of Zuma and was accused of trying to bribe Ntuthuzelo Vanara, the evidence leader of the parliamentary inquiry into the capture of Eskom, Transnet and Denel. Vanara alleged in October 2017 that Bongo offered him a “blank cheque” to suppress the investigation. Bongo has never confirmed or denied the allegations, and his bid to stop a parliamentary committee to conduct an investigation into his conduct failed when his application was dismissed in the Cape Town High Court in June.

Bongo is not the first Mpumalanga politician whose illness has been attributed to poisoning. Deputy President David Mabuza fell ill in 2015 while Mpumalanga premier and was unable to work for nearly six months. He was treated in Russia. After recovering he confirmed that he had been poisoned.

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