ANC MP Bongani Bongo granted R10 000 bail in fraud and corruption case

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Bongani Bongo.
Bongani Bongo.
Adrian de Kock

ANC MP and chairperson of Parliament's Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs, Bongani Bongo, has been released on R10 000 bail by the Mbombela Magistrate's Court.

His brother, Sipho Joel Bongo, was also granted R10 000 bail. They were warned to return to court on 4 March 2021.

They appeared in court with 10 co-accused for fraud and corruption, linked to a case that dates back to the time when Bongo was an official in the Mpumalanga government.

Four companies are also on the charge sheet.

The other charges against the group are money laundering and contravention of the Public Finance Management Act.

Bongo also faces a separate corruption charge in the Cape Town Magistrate's Court. 

On Tuesday, the Hawks issued a warrant for his arrest, hours after he had chaired a virtual portfolio committee meeting.

On Tuesday, Hawks spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Philani Nkwalase did not mention names, but confirmed that a "senior government official" was among 11 people accused of fraud and corruption "in connection with dubious land deals amounting to almost R124 million".

National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson Sipho Ngwema on Wednesday identified the accused as the Bongo brothers and Robert Burwise, Patrick Donald Chirwa, Harrington Sizwakhendaba Dhlamini, Blessing Mduduzi Singwane, David Boy Dube, Vusi Willem Magagula, Bongani Louis Henry Sibiya, Elmon Lawrence Mdaka, and Sibongile Mercy Mdaka.

They face 69 counts. 

The companies are The Little River Trading 156 (Pty) Ltd, Broad Market Trading 204 (Pty) Ltd, Bongiveli CC, and Pfuka Afrika CC.  

Ngwema said the allegations were connected to the R37.5 million sale and purchase of a farm in Naauwpoort, Emalahleni, by the Mpumalanga department of human settlements (DoHS), ostensibly on behalf of the eMalahleni municipality.

"Some of the accused, acting in concert, and with common purpose, exploited the normal phenomenon of purchase of land by government by misrepresenting facts to the state (DoHS) regarding ownership and [the] true sale price of the farm." he said.

"The real owner of the farm, Petrus Johannes van Tonder, was paid only R15 million for the farm from the R37.5 million. The money was paid into the trust account of Singwane Attorneys, in their capacity as conveyancer appointed by the department."

He said Van Tonder paid R1.5 million commission to Pam Golding as estate agents for the transaction.

"Singwane, not instructed by the department, paid R22.5 million to Little River Trading, which enabled the accused to successfully steal the money.

"In another transaction, Bongiveli entered into a sale and purchase agreement with Fremax Farms for a portion of Rietspruit, for an amount of R10.5 million. However, Msukaligwa Local Municipality valuation of the portion of the Rietspruit farm was valued at R1.6 million."

Little River paid R1.5 million as deposit for the farm and Bongiveli had to deliver a guarantee issued by a bank or financial institution for payment of the balance of the purchase price on or before 31 May 2011.  

Ngwema said that, in turn, some of the accused, as members of Pfuka Afrika CC, allegedly received commission of R4.5 million.

"In March 2011 the DoHS, Msukaligwa Municipality and Bongiveli entered into a sale and purchase agreement for Rietspruit Farm. When the said sale and purchase agreement was signed, Bongiveli was not the owner of the farm and there was no departmental approval to purchase the farm.

"The Msukaligwa Local Municipality valuation of the portion of the Rietspruit farm was valued at R1.6 million. In March 2011, the DoHS paid over R52 million to Singwane. Subsequently, the law firm furnished Fremax with a guarantee of R15.6 million."

Ngwema said the property was then transferred to Bongiveli from Msukaligwa Municipality, and the company became the owner of the farm. The farm was sold back to DoHS for R32 million.

"The farms fell out of the Spatial Development Plan for the municipality and therefore [were] not categorised for human settlement. To date, it has not been proclaimed as a township," he said.

"It is alleged that some of the accused received kickbacks of cash and cars, among others, from some of the entities involved in the transactions."

The court was on Wednesday still hearing the bail applications of the remaining co-accused.

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