The community plans to thank him for a variety of reasons, including that he made it through university despite the situation at home.
Residents in ANC NEC member Bongani Bongo’s home village of Siyabuswa in Mpumalanga are planning an event that will see the elders gather to honour him.
The date of the event is still not known but organisers say it will happen soon and will be for the elders in Bongo’s Ndebele community to introduce him to the ancestors as a “man amongst men” locally, where he grew up in a very poor family but managed to become a lawyer and finally went to Parliament.
One of the elders, 63-year-old Joseph Mahlangu, confirmed they will have the event – where a scarce animal skin vest and a stick will be given to the controversial ANC MP. Bongo will use this stick to “continue to make the community proud,” Mahlangu said.
Mahlangu said they were happy that despite the conditions under which Bongo was raised he managed to make the whole community proud afterwards.
Honouring him with a scarce animal skin vest and a stick, the gathering will be “to say this stick is yours and use it to continue to rise”.
The community said they will always be there for Bongo as he is always there for them.
Days before Bongo was arrested by the Hawks on 31 January 2020 he built a borehole for his Siyabuswa community – an area constantly struck by water shortages, and said the community should now use it as the JS Moroka local municipality continues to make people’s taps go dry because of dropping water levels at the Mkhombo Dam.
Bongo was charged with bribery by the Cape Town Magistrates Court in connection with an allegation that he offered to bribe Ntuthuzelo Vanara, the evidence leader of the parliamentary inquiry into the capture at Eskom by the Gupta family – a charge he says is part of a general smear campaign to tarnish the names of certain leaders who are seen as a hope to people’s suffering because there is no way he could have bribed Vanara as Vanara didn’t have the powers to stop and inquiry.
The son of Thomas Bongo and Emily Makhanya, Bongani was born on 29 June 1978 in an area called Dennilton, now in Limpopo’s Sekhukhune district municipality and lying on Mpumalanga’s provincial border.
He is the third-born child, coming after Sydney Bongo (1972), Thabisile Bongo (1976), and Sipho Bongo (1983) being the last-born.
They moved from Dennilton in 1999 to the Siyabuswa area while Bongani was studying towards being a lawyer at the University of Limpopo.
Mahlangu said they know Bongo when he was still young – coming with his poor family to the Siyabuswa area in 1999, they didn’t have a place to stay before being given a piece of land that the community used to use as a dumping site, which is where they built their first home.
“They were poor and their home was a badly built house. But look where he is today,” said Mahlangu.
“He has done a lot of things for the community, I remember we came to him to ask him to buy a wheelchair for some child who was not able to go to school because of a disability and he did it. He is very generous and humble and has never changed since we knew him”.
The 42-year-old Bongo is a former spokesperson of the Mpumalanga ANCYL and currently chairs Parliament’s committee on home affairs, a role he assumed right after the May 2019 general elections.
He was appointed by former President Jacob Zuma to serve as the country’s intelligence minister while the ANC was approaching its 54th congress in 2017 before he was removed from that position by current President Cyril Ramaphosa 5 months later when Ramaphosa took power following Zuma’s forced resignation as head of state on 14 February 2018.
On 16 February 2020, the Sunday Independent reported that Bongo, deputy president DD Mabuza, national secretary Ace Magashule, North West ANC leader Supra Mahumapelo and water affairs minister Lindiwe Sisulu were among 11 senior ANC leaders who are allegedly the targets of politically motivated criminal investigations by state organs amid divisions at Luthuli House between those aligned to Ramaphosa, Mabuza and Magashule.
Bongo is aligned to the former ‘Premier League’ grouping that supports Zuma and which didn’t support Ramaphosa to be ANC President in Nasrec. They wanted minister in the presidency Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma to be the ANC President and the grouping was made up of Mabuza, Magashule, Mahumapelo and KZN leader Sihle Zikalala.
Magashule and Mabuza had not been seeing eye to eye after Mabuza turned on the Premier League and supported Ramaphosa inside conference but are now said to be striking a deal to prepare the way for Mabuza to replace Ramaphosa, after an early conference to get rid of Ramaphosa is proposed in the party’s NGC this year.
On 31 January 2020, the Hawks arrested Bongo and charged him with bribery. He is out on R5000 bail.
The state alleges that in October 2017, Bongo offered Vanara an “unlawful gratification in the form of a monetary benefit, requesting him to decide on the exact amount required, to stop the inquiry from proceeding”.
Another community member in Siyabuswa, Joanah Ntuli (71), said Bongo remains their child and they will protect and honour him at the planned event.
“We want to say thank you to him for helping a lot of the people who flock to his home to ask for help and to encourage him to continue doing it and inspire others to have such ubuntu”.
(edited by ZK)
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