Bongo had been charged with attempting to bribe a now former parliamentary official in a bid to collapse a 2017 parliamentary enquiry into SOEs and Eskom.
THE NATIONAL Prosecuting Authority (NPA) is considering its options after its case against ANC MP Bongani Bongo was dismissed by the Western Cape High Court on Friday.
Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe granted Bongo his section 174 application and found him not guilty on a charge of corruption on the basis of insufficient evidence.
Bongo had been charged with attempting to bribe a now former parliamentary official, Ntuthuzelo Vanara, in a bid to collapse a 2017 parliamentary enquiry into SOEs and Eskom.
At the time, Vanara was evidence leader in the parliamentary investigation which was running parallel to another inquiry into the capture of state-owned enterprises, now known as the Zondo Commission.
Bongo had denied the charge and at the end of the prosecution’s case, Bongo’s advocate Mike Hellens SC brought a section 174 application to dismiss it. Section 174 of the Criminal Procedure Act incorporates the right of an accused to be discharged from the offence he has allegedly committed where, at the close of the State’s case, there is insufficient evidence.
NPA spokesperson Eric Ntabazalila said: “The NPA notes the decision of the Western Cape Division of the High Court and will study the judgment before considering its options.”
In his ruling Hlophe said: “Having regard to the fact that I have already found that there is insufficient evidence upon which a reasonable court, acting carefully, might convict.”
Hlophe said: “Clearly a person ought not to be prosecuted in the absence of a minimum of evidence upon which he might be convicted, merely in the expectation that at some stage he might incriminate himself.
“It ought to follow that if a prosecution is not to be commenced without that minimum of evidence, so too should it cease when the evidence finally falls below that threshold. The State’s evidence in this case is far below this threshold.”.
Of the prosecution’s star witness, Vanara, Hlophe said: “It is my judgment that Mr Vanara’s evidence is not credible in some material respects. The evidence of other State witnesses clearly does not corroborate that of Mr Vanara’s in some material respects.”
Bongani’s attorney Jean Chris de Jager said: “For three years our client was wrongfully accused of a crime he did not commit.”
De Jager said: “Vilified in the media, his name and reputation were dragged through the deepest mud. He was tarred and feathered, and relieved of his position as a Cabinet minister.
“An adequate investigation by the police would have unearthed an unreliable case. They cannot just investigate someone to establish guilt. They have to investigate to establish innocence as well,
“We were forced to obtain deliverance of justice via the high court. This judgment reinforces our belief in the criminal justice system of South Africa, and the constitutionally enshrined belief that a person must always be presumed innocent until proven guilty,” said De Jager.