State witness springs into Bongani Bongo’s defence

State witness springs into Bongani Bongo's defence
TRUTHSAYER: Former parliamentary administrator Shihaam Lakgar who was brought in by the state to testify against former intelligence minister Bongo has made an about turn and will now testify in defence of Bongo. PICTURE: Screenshot

She says she has decided to say “enough is enough” with “tarnishing people’s reputations and character”.

A witness brought in by the state, Shihaam Lagkar, in the Cape Town matter of ANC NEC member Bongani Bongo is preparing to defend him when the corruption and bribery case against him is heard on 17 November 2020.

Lagkar spoke for the first time about the matter in an online TV interview the past weekend.

She said she believes in Bongo and not in advocate Ntuthuzelo Vanara and this is what she will express in court when giving her testimony on 17 November 2020.  

Lagkar worked in an administrative position in Parliament’s ethics and members interest office, where Vanara was employed as acting Registrar.

Both Lagkar and Vanara are the two state witnesses in the bribery case against Bongo at the Western Cape high court while former Eskom acting board chair Zethembe Khoza is brought in by Bongo’s defence team as the third witness.

Lagkar told Galaxy Universal Network’s host Sifiso Mahlangu that “Mr Bongo has constantly said he did not do that” and she believes him.

“Truth be told I don’t believe what Mr Vanara is saying,” Lagkar said while being interviewed.

Former clerk in Adv Ntuthuzelo Vanara's office Shihaam Lagkar, who says she will testify "the truth”, being interviewed by Galaxy Universal Network host Sifiso Mahlangu
Former clerk in Adv Ntuthuzelo Vanara’s office Shihaam Lagkar, who says she will testify “the truth”, being interviewed by Galaxy Universal Network host Sifiso Mahlangu

Lagkar said her contract with the office ended in June 2019, having been on that job since 2016.

She said she was a “central” employee in the ethics committee’s office and worked closely with its former chair Amos Masondo.

She said when the allegations surfaced against Bongo in the media they were all “shocked” because many times they used to see Bongo in the Parliamentary buildings.

Vanara left the office in October 2017, having been the acting Registrar since 2016, to become the new head of legal services at the SABC – a job he currently holds.

Between 1 September and the time he left for SABC at the end of October 2017, Vanara was evidence leader for a Parliamentary enquiry looking into the capture of state companies like Eskom.

Bongo is accused of attempting to offer a bribe of R2 million to Vanara to stop the enquiry.

The DA laid a charge of bribery and corruption against Bongo on 22 November 2017. 

In an affidavit submitted to then speaker Baleka Mbete in November 2017, Vanara said Bongo came to his office on 10 October 2017 and offered to give him a ‘blank cheque’.

Vanara said Bongo asked for “assistance” and was sent by Khoza to facilitate the meeting. Mbete referred the matter to Parliament’s ethics committee.

State witness springs into Bongani Bongo's defence
Former Eskom acting board chair Zethembe Khoza who is one of the three witnesses in former intelligence minister Bongani Bongo’s corruption and bribery case in Cape Town’s high court. PIC Creamer Media

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Khoza in his own statement denies he ever knew Bongo, more so having his numbers and said there was no way he could have asked Bongo to facilitate the issue that Vanara is alleging as Bongo was a nobody in the political space to convince Vanara to stop an inquiry. 

He was merely a back-bench MP until 17 October 2017 – 7 days before the alleged bribery incident – when he was appointed state security minister.

Vanara’s affidavit is dated 26 October 2017 – 9 days after Bongo became minister on 17 October and 16 days after the alleged bribery incident on 10 October. 

Lagkar said when members of Parliament’s ethics committee heard Bongo’s matter on 5 September 2018 they questioned why it took Vanara “so long” to report Bongo.

“There was drama in the committee,” Lagkar told Mahlangu.

“The first question was why did it take him 16 days to go and write an affidavit,” she said.

The DA laid the charge against Bongo with the cops when the Parliament’s ethics committee couldn’t take any decision on the matter after it asked that another witness other than Vanara be sought to convince it that Bongo really spoke to him about stopping the Eskom enquiry.

(edited by ZK)

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