The Western Cape high court has granted a section 174 application filed by ANC MP Bongani Bongo, effectively dismissing the corruption charges against him.
Judge JP Hlophe granted the application in a ruling on Friday, meaning the case has been thrown out without Bongo having to defend himself.
A section 174 discharge is granted when a judge determines that the state has failed to present sufficient evidence to warrant an answer from an accused person.
The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) had accused Bongo of attempting to bribe an evidence leader, Adv Ntuthuzelo Vanara, to derail a state capture inquiry into Eskom conducted by Parliament in 2017.
In his ruling, Judge Hlophe said Vanara’s conduct was not consistent with his profession as a lawyer because, among other reasons, he did not report the alleged bribery attempt to the police or Hawks.
Further questioning Vanara’s version of events, Hlophe noted that there was no bank account provided, no amount stipulated and no follow up by Bongo to back up the attempted bribery charge.
He also questioned Vanara’s credibility because his version contradicted those of witnesses such as National Council of Provinces (NCOP) secretary Adv Modibedi Phindela and acting Secretray to Parliament Baby Tyawa.
Bongo threatens to sue
Speaking outside the court soon after the ruling, Bongo said he was consulting his legal team with a view to suing Vanara and other sate witnesses as well as the National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP).
“This has been a malicious prosecution,” he claimed, adding that the “concocted charges” against ANC Secretary-General Ace Magashule must similarly be dismissed.
Magashule faces corruption charges linked to a R255 million asbestos audit project awarded by the Free State Province when he was still Premier. He has denied the charges and suggested that the case politically motivated.
Bongo was flanked by allies in the ANC, including MP Thandi Mahambehlala and former Minister Malusi Gigaba. They are often associated with the “radical economic transformation” (RET) faction in the ANC.
Several leaders in this faction has suggested that state institutions are being used to “fight political battles.” Last week, former President Jacob Zuma went as far as claiming – without evidence – that some judges may have received payments from the CR17 campaign that propelled President Cyril Ramaphosa to the ANC presidency in 2017.
The NPA has not immediately reacted to the ruling. Its comment will be added as soon as it is available.