The ANC caucus in Parliament has still not confirmed whether home affairs portfolio committee chairperson Bongani Bongo has resigned as an MP.
On Monday, news reports abounded that Bongo had stepped down as a member of the National Assembly and ANC national executive committee (NEC) after an extra-ordinary party meeting at the weekend to tackle issues of corruption in the party and state.
After the meeting, ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa said that party members who have corruption charges hanging over their heads must resign from their positions.
Bongo — who was minister of state security under Jacob Zuma’s presidency — faces charges of bribery and corruption in the Western Cape high court. This is in connection with how he allegedly tried to bribe parliamentary legal advisor Ntuthuzela Vanara with a blank cheque during parliament’s 2017 inquiry into the state capture of state-owned enterprises by the Gupta family. Bongo is currently out on bail.
But, the ANC caucus said it has no official confirmation of Bongo’s apparent resignation.
“There is still internal work that needs to be done in the office of the chief whip [Pemmy Majodina]. As soon as she has concluded those processes, then something will come out,” said caucus spokesperson Nomfanelo Kota.
Directly asked whether Bongo had resigned, Kota said she does not know.
“There’s no confirmation. We must get a letter. And we have no indication on whether we have an official letter. We can’t be pre-emptive if we don’t have anything,” Kota added.
Earlier on Tuesday, Bongo was supposed to chair a meeting of parliament’s portfolio committee on home affairs to discuss the effects of the coronavirus lockdown on refugees in South Africa.
The committee’s secretary, Eddie Mathonsi, told MPs — who logged on to a virtual sitting of the committee — that Bongo had indicated he was on leave.
While MPs were preparing to nominate a temporary chairperson to have the meeting continue, opposition party members queried Bongo’s absence.
Joe McGluwa from the Democratic Alliance (DA) raised an issue with Bongo’s no-show, adding that the timing of the leave was suspicious.
“Normally, when people take leave, they give reasons. We know there is this rumour on the reasons why [he is not here]. Can we be given reasons?”
Mathonsi said that when he had spoken to Bongo on Monday, he had only indicated that he was on leave.
“He told me he was on leave. He did not give me any reason. So I accept what I maybe also read in the news, but there’s no other reason except that he was on leave,” Mathonsi said.
Another DA MP, Thembisile Khanyile, placed on record her party’s original disapproval of Bongo being appointed by the ANC to head the portfolio committee.
Bongo was among other ANC MPs with dubious backgrounds, including Mosebenzi Zwane (transport committee chairperson), and Supra Mahumapelo (tourism committee chairperson) who, after being sworn in as MPs following the 2019 general election, were elevated to senior positions in Parliament by their party.
“The DA voted against the election of Mister Bongo as chairperson, and it was the ANC members who voted for him. So we hope the ANC has learnt their lesson … And going forward, we hope that you are going to trust us,” Khanyile said.