Eskom inquiry advocate 'feared for his safety' when called by former state security minister Bongani Bongo

Former state security minister Bongani Bongo at the high court in Cape Town on the first day of his corruption trial on February 15 2021.
Former state security minister Bongani Bongo at the high court in Cape Town on the first day of his corruption trial on February 15 2021.
Image: Anthony Molyneaux

Advocate Ntuthuzelo Vanara feared for his safety when he received phone calls from then state security minister Bongani Bongo in October 2017.

Vanara was at the time the evidence leader in a parliamentary inquiry into malfeasance in state-owned enterprises Eskom, Denel, and Transnet.

Testifying on the first day of Bongo's corruption trial at the high court in Cape Town, Vanara said he received three calls from Bongo on October 4 2017, shortly after arranging to meet and interview then acting Eskom board chairperson Zethembe Khoza in  preparation for a hearing into allegations of state capture at the power utility.

Former minister of state security Bongani Bongo pleaded not guilty to corruption charges brought against him by the National Prosecuting Authority in the Cape Town high court on February 15 2021.

He received the first two calls shortly before departing on a flight to Johannesburg from Cape Town to meet Khoza. Bongo requested to meet Vanara, suggesting a quick meeting at the airport before he departed.

When Bongo asked where he was going, Vanara told him he was heading to Durban.

Asked why he said this, Vanara told Western Cape judge president John Hlophe that he was fearful for his safety because of the sheer scale of evidence of malfeasance he had seen since being appointed as the evidence leader on September 1. The hearings were expected to start in December.

“It was already October 4. I had been exposed to overwhelming evidence of malfeasance. It became very apparent to me that I needed to tread carefully,” Vanara told the court. “I told him we were going to Durban primarily due to security concerns.”

Bongo then asked if he had scheduled a meeting with Khoza.

“I said yes but we were still waiting for a confirmation,” he said.

Bongo then asked when he would return to Cape Town the next day as he wanted to schedule a meeting. They agreed to instead meet on October 9.

Bongo allegedly called Vanara on October 9 at 5pm to say he had just landed in Cape Town and asked if Vanara was still at his office in parliament. They then agreed to meet the next day, Tuesday October 10.

Vanara testified that Bongo arrived at his office, saying he was sent by Khoza on behalf of the Eskom board to ask for Vanara's assistance with the commission of inquiry.

The court then adjourned for lunch.

The indictment alleges that Bongo would offer Vanara a bribe if he told the commission of inquiry he was ill and could not go ahead with the inquiry.

Bongo explained that he and other individuals were working on a multipronged approach to stop the inquiry from going ahead, according to the indictment.

Vanara allegedly refused and reported the incident to the acting secretary of parliament.

Bongo faces one count of corruption. He pleaded not guilty on Monday.

Bongo, sitting in the dock, stared at Vanara intensely, appearing to draw his attention and laughed at parts of his testimony.

The state will call 12 witnesses including a cellphone expert, while Bongo's defence team said they would call three witnesses including Bongo and Khoza.

The trial continues.

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