In a twist of  event, ANC MP Bongani Bongo was back in parliament on Tuesday, chairing the home affairs portfolio committee and saying his party was still processing whether he should step aside.

There have been questions over Bongo’s position in parliament — and on the ANC’s national executive committee (NEC) — after the party decided in August that members who are facing charges of corruption or other serious crimes should immediately “step aside” from all leadership positions in the party, legislatures or other government structures pending the finalisation of their cases.

Recall that Bongo is facing corruption charges for allegedly attempting to bribe an evidence leader of parliament’s Eskom inquiry in 2017. A provisional trial date for his trial has been set for February 2021.

He has not attended any of the committee’s virtual meetings since the ANC NEC announcement — first, the committee was told he was on sick leave and, later, that he was in isolation as he had been exposed to a confirmed case of Covid-19.

DA MP Joe McGluwa put Bongo on the spot on Tuesday, asking about his membership of parliament and chairmanship of the committee. McGluwa said it was important for Bongo to address “the uncertainty” about his “chairpersonship”.

He said “There were rumours before that you had been fired, and rumours before that you are no more the chairperson. So I really want, in the interest of the people of SA, that you, as the chairperson, clear that up because even the veterans made a statement about your chairpersonship”.

ANC MPs Mosa Chabane and Tidimalo Legwase then jumped in. They said the matter didn’t belong in the committee meeting, that reasons for Bongo’s absence had been made known to — and accepted by — the committee, and that any other development would be announced by the ANC chief whip.

Bongo nonetheless responded saying, that “the ANC is processing that matter”.

He added “Once the ANC has finally processed that matter, you will generally get the response and there will be communication nationwide. However, I take your concern and I hope it’s not a malicious concern. But the communication will be done when the time is right”.

Recall also that last month, Bongo told the media that he was waiting for the ANC to explain the legal basis for asking him to stay away though no court has found him guilty of anything at this stage.

“I am not against stepping aside … Stepping aside must have clear terms of reference because it is not based on the constitution of the ANC and the constitution of the country,” he said at the time. “The person who says I must step aside must write to me and say what this means so that when I go to court, I produce that thing.”

He said written clarity from the ANC would be useful in the event the court asked him if he had stepped aside as “a self-conviction” or because his conscience told him it was the right thing to do.

He added “I have to say, ‘No, my organisation that I represent wrote this to me’”.